For those seeking ways to cut back on pasta consumption, this recipe offers a variation on the ever-popular beefy mac. Add a green salad for a deliciously filling meal.
I’ve substituted garbanzo beans for the noodles to cut down on processed carbs and add fiber. To increase the vegetable-to-meat proportions, I’ve also doubled the amounts of mushrooms, garbanzos and tomatoes and used an extra-large pepper and onion.
If you’re looking to cut the amount of red meat in your diet, and the saturated fat and cholesterol that come with it, feel free to use ground turkey instead of ground beef. Or, if you want to go vegan, use your favorite plant-based “beef” crumbles. I’ve used the Boca veggie crumbles and found they work very well.
As usual, I use reduced-sodium versions of products whenever available, and do not add salt to this recipe, but include enough spices that I really don’t miss the salt.
Garbanzo beef freezes well, and so lends itself to batch cooking.
My husband came up with this recipe and it’s definitely a keeper.
There’s so much healthy stuff (like protein, veggies and fiber) and so little of the bad stuff (like added salt) that if he weren’t making it himself, I’d probably have to hide the ingredient list to get him to try it.
Plus, it’s easy-peasy to make. Pete says he has the recipe perfectly timed to prepare during the nightly PBS News Hour.
And it’s delicious! What’s not to love?
This recipe makes approximately 6 one-cup servings.
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16-ounce can reduced-sodium garbanzo beans
14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium diced tomatoes
9-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
32-ounce container low-sodium chicken broth
2-3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro leaves
Aleppo pepper flakes to taste (may be added at the table)
Add chicken breasts and bay leaves to the broth in a large soup kettle and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked all the way through.
Shred or dice the chicken and return to the broth.
Thaw the spinach in the microwave oven and add to the mixture.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer an additional 20-30 minutes.
Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 100 | Carbohydrates: 6 g | Protein: 14 g | Fat: 2 g | Saturated Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 30 mg | Sodium: 230 mg | Potassium: 320 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 23% | Vitamin C: 22% | Calcium: 4% | Iron: 8%
When it comes to healthy eating, I’m not one to weigh and measure every single thing I put on my plate. Nor do I have the patience to constantly track calories. My common sense tells me to avoid crash diets that ask us to eliminate whole food groups, even if they promise to take off ten pounds in one week. And I’ve learned the hard way that putting any item on a forbidden list only makes me suddenly crave it.
For me, taking off weight has required developing sustainable habits I don’t need to think about – at least not too much – once they’re established. And what better time to initiate a new positive habit than during Lent? Some experts say it takes about 30-40 days for a habit to get firmly established, so the time frame is perfect.
In recent years, some people I know have added a new tradition to their annual Lenten discipline. Instead of (or in addition to) giving something up, they approach Lent as a time to “take something on.” This could include anything from daily prayer and meditation to better self-care to a new charitable commitment.
Since Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us to put off the “old self” and put on a “new self,” I’ve begun including both a sacrifice – or “subtraction” – and an “add-on.” That is, I dedicate each Lenten season to acquiring a new positive eating habit as well as ditching a negative one.
This addition/subtraction process makes sense to me psychologically. Experts agree shedding a habit can be hard unless we replace it with something else. Examples I’ve adopted include replacing salt with herbs and spices, replacing “refined” starches with more fiber-rich whole foods, and replacing sugar- and fat-laden munchies with “legal” snacks.
Over the years, these small tweaks to my eating habits have yielded great long-term benefits. Here are some habits I’ve added and subtracted during the past few Lenten seasons, along with a couple new ideas I will be working on this year:
Subtract added sugar. I’ve found that some things – cornbread, applesauce, dry cereal, iced tea – actually taste better when they’re not gunked-up with added sugar. I’ve also become an inveterate label reader because I’ve learned that manufacturers sneak the nefarious substance into all kinds of foods where one wouldn’t expect to find it, from ketchup and peanut butter to fat-free yogurt. Thankfully I’ve discovered “no added sugar” versions of all these things.
Add fruits and vegetables. The U.S.D.A. recommends we eat at least 3-5 vegetable and fruit servings per day. I’ve come up with several ways to slip more of these into my diet – adding a small salad to my lunch, adding spinach or other veggies to pasta dishes, replacing soda with a small glass of V-8 juice. See my blog post “Meeting My 3-5 Challenge” (link HERE) for a list of ideas.
Subtract added salt. Again, I always check labels – more and more popular brands now offer reduced-sodium versions of their soups, sauce mixes and other products. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh produce, and less likely to contain salt than canned veggies. Since I’ve begun replacing the added salt called for in many of my recipes with herbs and spices, I’ve found I don’t even miss the salt.
Add fiber. One easy way to do this is to substitute whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta for the refined stuff. Other good sources of fiber include raw veggies, avocados, berries, legumes, nuts and seeds. I also don’t peel potatoes, cucumbers or apples.
Subtract red meat. Being a Midwesterner raised on a farm, I grew up eating lots of beef and pork. While I don’t plan to eliminate these from my diet – at least not at this time – I have begun to replace some “red-meat” meals each week with fish, chicken, eggs or a plant-based protein such as beans or lentils.
Add healthy snacks. I’ve developed a repertoire of “legal” between-meal nibbles. Best are munchies that help me meet my daily quota of fruits and vegetables, such as fresh fruit chunks and raw veggies with dip. Also good are snacks that have higher protein content and fewer carbs, such as a small dish of sugar-free pudding made with fat-free milk, or snacks high in fiber such as air-popped popcorn.
Subtract impulse buys. I’ve found it much easier to avoid eating “junk” if I don’t bring it into the house in the first place. Grocery shopping with a list helps, as does not shopping when I’m hungry. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been ordering groceries online and having them delivered, which makes avoiding impulsive purchases so much easier that I plan to continue shopping this way once the quarantine is over.
Add portion control. The “plate method” suggested by the American Diabetes Association is attractive because there’s no weighing, measuring or calorie-counting. (Note: You don’t have to be diabetic to use it.) The plate method involves filling half a nine-inch plate with non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli or carrots, one-quarter of the plate with whole grains or starchy vegetables such as corn or potatoes, and one-quarter of the plate with a protein source. For detailed information on the plate method, link HERE and HERE.
I feel it’s important for me to point out that I didn’t make all these changes at once. Each Lenten season, I’ve made one or two small changes at a time, which means the new habits have been acquired over a period of years. For example, the first year I focused on subtracting added sugar and adding more fruits and veggies on my plate. Since then, I’ve added/subtracted a new habit or two each year. This year I will be working on avoiding impulse buys and using the plate method for better portion control. Baby steps, as my spiritual advisor always liked to say.
The good news: These baby steps really do work. So far, I’m about 25 pounds down from my top weight. Yes, the weight has come off much more slowly than it would have with a crash diet, but the bottom line is that it’s staying off.
Who says salads have to be boring? This one is as chock full of deliciousness as it is full of nutrients.
The kale is rich in Vitamin C, while the cranberries add fiber and the walnuts and blue cheese crumbles contribute protein. As with all my recipes, I use products and ingredients that reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat content.
This recipe makes a 1½-cup serving or two ¾-cup servings. Use the smaller serving as a side dish or the larger serving as a light lunch by itself.
1 cup chopped baby kale
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted walnuts
2 tablespoons reduced-sugar dried cranberries
2 tablespoons reduced-fat blue cheese dressing
2 tablespoons reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles (optional)
Remove large stems from the kale, rinse thoroughly and chop into bite-size pieces.
Add walnuts, cranberries and dressing to the kale in a medium-size mixing bowl, and toss until everything is thoroughly covered with the dressing.
Pour into a salad bowl (for the main dish) or divide evenly into two smaller bowls (for the side dish) and sprinkle with the blue cheese crumbles.
Serving size: ¾ cup | Calories: 112 | Carbohydrates: 13 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 6 g | Saturated Fat: 1.5 g | Cholesterol: 6 mg | Sodium: 160 mg | Potassium: 205 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 5.5 g | Vitamin A: 65% | Vitamin C: 65% | Calcium: 10% | Iron: 3%
Serving size: 1½ cups | Calories: 225 | Carbohydrates: 26 g | Protein: 10 g | Fat: 12 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Cholesterol: 12 mg | Sodium: 320 mg | Potassium: 410 mg | Fiber: 8 g | Sugar: 11 g | Vitamin A: 130% | Vitamin C: 130% | Calcium: 20% | Iron: 6%
For several years now, Pete and I have enjoyed a New Year’s Day tradition of inviting friends to our house for hoppin’ john, greens and cornbread.
Hoppin’ john is a traditional southern dish made with black-eyed peas and rice, and is said to bring good luck if eaten on New Year’s Day. My husband, who grew up in East Tennessee, brought the recipe with him when he moved to Illinois.
As usual, I’ve modified the recipe somewhat to meet my dietary restrictions. For my version of hoppin’ john, I use brown rice – the frozen kind for convenience. I’ve actually come to prefer brown rice for its nutty texture. Plus, it has more healthy fiber than the more heavily processed white rice. I cook the bacon separately and drain off the grease before adding it to the recipe, which allows me to add some delicious bacon flavor without so much saturated fat, and I sauté the onion and pepper separately in olive oil. I use Tony Chachere’s no-salt seasoning blend in place of salt. Low sodium chicken broth adds flavor.
We serve the dish with greens and cornbread, which are said to further ensure prosperity for the coming year. For the cornbread, I use Martha White self-rising buttermilk corn meal mix, and follow the recipe on the back of the package. This brand of corn meal mix does NOT have added sugar, which not only makes it better for my diabetic diet, but also more authentically southern.
Most years, our friends bring their own favorite dishes, along with their musical instruments, making for a great potluck feast and jam session. What better way to start the New Year off right?
Unfortunately, this year we’ll be celebrating with just the two of us because of the pandemic. But our friends will be with us in spirit, and the leftover hoppin’ john freezes very well.
This recipe makes about eight one-cup servings.
2 10-ounce packages frozen whole grain brown rice
1 12-ounce package frozen black-eyed peas
3 slices bacon, crumbled
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Tony Cachere’s no-salt seasoning blend
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
32-ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth
Combine black-eyed peas and chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Thaw the brown rice in the refrigerator overnight, or heat in the microwave oven following package directions.
Cook the bacon on a plate lined and covered with paper towels in the microwave oven for 3-4 minutes, or until crisp, and crumble the bacon.
Sauté the onion and pepper in olive oil until tender and caramelized, and sprinkle in the no-salt seasoning, red pepper and black pepper.
Combine rice, black-eyed peas (with broth), bacon and sautéed vegetables. Add one cup water and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Pour into baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in 425-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Stir again and serve hot.
Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 240 | Carbohydrates: 38 g | Protein: 8 g | Fat: 6 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 3 mg | Sodium: 125 mg | Potassium: 305 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 1% | Vitamin C: 20% | Calcium: 1.5% | Iron: 6%
Fruktsoppa, a fruit soup using dried fruit, is a traditional dessert in Sweden and Norway.
When I was growing up, this dish was a staple at extended-family gatherings during the holidays. But fruktsoppa is so tasty, why reserve it only for Christmas?
The soup may be served as a side dish at breakfast or as a dessert at other meals. What a delicious way to help meet our goal of 3-5 servings of fruits or vegetables per day!
The original recipe calls for added sugar, but I totally leave it out. Because the fruit itself is naturally sweet enough, who needs the added carbs and calories?
The soup can be frozen up to three months, which makes it great for batch cooking.
This recipe makes approximately 10 half-cup servings.
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried prunes
2 apples, sliced
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
6 cups water
Soak apricots in the water for at least a half hour.
Add the apple slices, cinnamon sticks, tapioca and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Add prunes and currants and continue to simmer until all fruit is tender.
Serve hot or cold, depending on your preference.
Calories: 115 | Carbohydrates: 30 g | Protein: 1 g | Fat: .3 g | Saturated Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 7 mg | Potassium: 383 mg | Fiber: 3.5 g | Sugar: 22 g | Vitamin A: 12% | Vitamin C: 4% | Calcium: 2% | Iron: 4%
I just l-o-v-e lasagna, but most traditional recipes include ingredients that make it a carb and fat-laden calorie bomb.
For this version, I’ve cut a substantial portion of the fat content by using 90-percent lean ground beef, fat-free cottage cheese and low-fat part-skim mozzarella cheese. I’ve also reduced the salt content by using low-sodium marinara sauce, added fiber by using whole-grain noodles and even sneaked in veggies by adding spinach.
The result? While still not calorie-free (shucks!), the healthier ingredients improve the nutritional quality of this comfort-food favorite without sacrificing flavor.
Lasagna also freezes well, which makes it great for batch-cooking.
For the filling, brown the ground beef and drain thoroughly. Thaw the spinach in the microwave oven and add to the ground beef. Add cottage cheese and marinara sauce to ground beef/spinach mixture and stir to thoroughly combine ingredients.
Spoon 1/3 of the lasagna filling into a 9 X 9-inch pan, and top with a layer of noodles. Repeat, then top with the remainder of the filling.
Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top.
Bake in 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.
Calories: 390 | Carbohydrates: 24 g | Protein: 34 g | Fat: 17 g | Saturated Fat: 6 g | Cholesterol: 65 mg | Sodium: 590 mg | Potassium: 425 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 43% | Vitamin C: 20% | Calcium: 30% | Iron: 30%
One of my absolute favorite comfort foods is peanut butter. So, a real treat for me was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup pie at Baker’s Square Restaurant and Bakery, a local Midwestern chain restaurant known for its amazing pies. (Alas, the restaurant has sadly closed.)
The dessert, of course, was meant to resemble an actual Reese’s peanut butter cup (my all-time favorite candy), with its chocolate graham cracker crust, peanut butter cheesecake filling and chocolate ganache topping liberally sprinkled with chopped peanut butter cups. Ah-h-h-h!
The bad news: Each slice contained a whopping 830 calories. Even more scary was the delectable dessert’s heavy fat and sugar content – 56 grams of fat and 63 grams of sugar. The online recipes that came closest to duplicating the restaurant version – with their heavy cream and astronomical sugar content – flunked the nutritional test nearly as badly.
The good news: With just a few ingredient tweaks, I’ve been able to improve the dessert’s nutritional content considerably. So, I get to have my pie and eat it too, so to speak. Better yet, this no-bake recipe is fairly simple to make. The pie also freezes well for up to three months, so it can be enjoyed a slice at a time over a period of several weeks.
Replacing regular cream cheese with the fat-free variety cuts nearly 12 grams of fat and 140 calories from each serving. I further reduce the calories, fat and sugar content by using sugar-free Cool Whip, sugar-free vanilla pudding made with fat-free milk, sugar-free chocolate frosting and even sugar-free peanut butter cups.
Bottom line: Sorry, this still is not a totally low-calorie treat – but I’ve managed to cut out about half the calories, half the fat and nearly all of the sugar. And I swear there is NO sacrifice in taste. Plus, this version actually has some nutritional value – about the same protein content as a 3-ounce hamburger patty, in fact.
Of course, one way to further cut the calorie content as well as fat and sugar consumption is to control portion size. Cutting the pie into 12 servings rather than the standard 8 still allows for a somewhat generous slice (in fact, a slightly bigger slice than I got when splitting the restaurant dessert with a friend, which I sometimes did). Below, I’ve provided nutrition information for a smaller slice (12 servings per pie) and a larger slice (8 servings per pie).
Note: I’ve included brand names for some of the ingredients I use because of the marked differences in taste and quality between the various fat-free and sugar-free products. These are the brands that have worked best for me in terms of flavor, and which don’t just replace fat content by increasing sugar content. I always have to watch for this when using reduced-fat products.
8-inch pre-made Oreo pie crust
8-ounce package fat-free Philadelphia cream cheese
8-ounce package fat-free Philadelphia cream cheese
½ cup peanut butter
Small (1 ounce) package Jell-o brand sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
1 cup fat-free (skim) milk
1 cup sugar-free Cool Whip whipped topping
½ of 15-ounce container Pillsbury sugar-free chocolate fudge frosting
8.8-ounce bag Reese’s sugar-free miniature peanut butter cups
Prepare pudding according to package instructions but using only one cup of milk. Add whipped topping and stir until blended.
Add cream cheese and peanut butter. Blend thoroughly in a food processor or blend using a food processor stick. (You may wish to add the cream cheese a small chunk at a time or soften it in the microwave oven about 30 seconds to one minute to make the blending process easier.)
Spoon mixture evenly into pie crust and refrigerate at least four hours until pie filling is firm. Or place in the freezer for about a half hour.
Soften frosting by placing in the microwave oven for up to 30 seconds and then stirring. Spread the frosting evenly over the cheesecake.
Chop the peanut butter cups and sprinkle over the top.
Servings: 12 | Calories: 335 | Carbohydrates: 44 g | Protein: 8 g | Fat: 20 g | Saturated fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 4 mg | Sodium: 400 mg | Potassium: 143 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 1% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 2% | Iron: .5%
Servings: 8 | Calories: 502 | Carbohydrates: 66 g | Protein: 12 g | Fat: 30 g | Saturated fat: 4 g | Cholesterol: 6 mg | Sodium: 600 mg | Potassium: 215 mg | Fiber: 6 g | Sugar: 11 g | Vitamin A: 2% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 1%