Central Standard
4:12 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Healthy Food As Love

If you have a special someone in your life and you want to show them how you feel... is a box of chocolates really the best you can do? What about the fat? The calories? The guilt? On the second half of today’s Central Standard, food writer Beth Bader will join us with a new way to tell your special someone you care- by making them something healthy to enjoy.

For our guest Beth and her family, heart health is pretty key. Her father in law died of heart disease at age 53, and her husband just turned 53 last week. She writes, "My husband's cholesterol was 255 ON MEDICATION when we met. It's 120 now, half his former dose. We changed his diet and he runs marathons (I got him started, he got obsessed). He's qualified for Boston 3 times now and his cardiologist is amazed at the changes."

As Beth sees it, the way to a man's heart really is through his stomach. And, apparently, his feet, too.

ON DIETING

Beth writes, "Chocolate is fantastic, but don't feel like you failed your diet and ditch the resolutions. Think more about NOT dieting, just making a daily effort to eat well. If you have a holiday or a bad day, adjust for it over the course of the next few days and go back to your healthy new habit." Here's her blog post about this.

The following recipes are courtesy of The Cleaner Plate Club by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin

STEEL CUT OATS

Steel cut oats are one of the best hot cereals but often get overlooked for a “quicker” breakfast. Making these in a slow cooker the night before makes this healthy, delicious hot breakfast ready when you are. No slow cooker? Soaking the oats before bed cuts the cooking time in half. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator and reheat in the microwave. For extra nutty flavor, toast the steel-cut oats in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes before you put it in the slow cooker.

1 cup steel-cut oats
{1/3} cup chopped dates
{2/3} cup raisins
{1/3} cup chopped dried figs
{1/2} teaspoon ground cinnamon
{1/3} cup chopped almonds or walnuts
4 cups water
{1/2} cup milk

1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a slow cooker before you head to bed. Set to LOW and cook for 8 to 9 hours.

2. Stir to combine, and serve.

Variation: You can also use 2 cups total dried blueberries, cranberries, and cherries instead of the other dried fruits here. Skip the cinnamon and use {1/2} teaspoon vanilla extract instead for this version.

Serves 10.

SALMON BURGERS

It seems somehow wrong to take fresh salmon and put it through the food processor, but these burgers, with the lemony-herb dressing, are worth it. The hardest part of this recipe is pulling the pin bones and cutting the skin from the salmon fillet. A good fish market will do this for you.

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
{1/2} cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
{1/4} teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound salmon fillet, boned and skinned
3 whole-wheat pitas, halved
Lemon-Herb Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

1. Heat 1 teaspoon of the canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and scallion and sauté for a couple minutes, until translucent. Scrape into a small bowl. Add the bread crumbs, tarragon, parsley, mustard, salt, and lemon zest to the bowl, along with a couple of grinds of pepper.

2. Place half the salmon in a food processor and pulse for a couple of minutes, until it begins to look like a paste. Add the crumb mixture and pulse a few times, until well combined.

3. Add the rest of the salmon and pulse for a minute or so, until the mixture is well chopped. Shape the mixture into 3-ounce patties; you should be able to make about 6 patties.

4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon patties. Cook for 4 minutes on the first side, then turn and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer. Do not overcook, but be sure the burgers are done (fish should be cooked through in the center).

5. Serve in whole-wheat pita bread pockets with the mayonnaise.

Serves 6.

LEMON HERB MAYONNAISE

{1/4} cup canola mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the mayonnaise, tarragon, parsley, and lemon juice in a small bowl, and blend well. Chill before serving.

WHOLE-GRAIN CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

Dark chocolate, less butter, and whole grains take the edge off guilt for this version of “monster cookies.” Use natural peanut butter, with no added fats or sugars.

1{1/2} cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
{1/4} cup canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
{3/4} cup granulated sugar
{3/4} cup brown sugar
{3/4} cup chunky natural peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and mix well.

3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the oil, butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar, starting on low speed and finishing with a couple of minutes on high speed. Add the peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla, and mix well.

4. Slowly beat the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture, with the mixer on low. Scrape down the sides as needed. The dough will be very thick. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

5. Form cookies, with hands, in 3-inch rounds on a baking sheet; you will have to press the dough together a bit to shape the cookies. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until just a hint of brown on the bottom.

Makes about 2{1/2} dozen cookies.

WEDDING SOUP

For Meatballs:

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 lb. ground grass fed beef or bison
1 lb. lean ground pork
2 tbs. basil
2 tbs. parsley
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 egg
pinch of salt and couple turns on the pepper mill

Mix well. Roll into dime-sized balls, placing on tray.

For soup:

44 cups chicken stock
3 or 4 parmesan rinds
2 small heads escarole, cleaned and chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
8 oz. Acini di Pepi pasta
½ cup grated parmesan

Heat stock until it boils. Add pinch of red pepper flakes. Drop in meatballs (carefully) a few at a time until all are added. Add parmesan rinds, and turn down heat to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. You will need to stir occasionally to prevent the cheese rinds from sticking. Add escarole and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add pasta and simmer again for 20 minutes. Sprinkle in parmesan and stir to blend.

A few notes. The reason this soup is called Wedding Soup, so I am told, is that the cost of using all the different meats meant it was only served on special occasions. Variations on this would be to also add two cups of cooked, shredded chicken AND/or drizzle in an egg mixed with the parmesan to add more body to the soup. The flavors of all the meats and the parmesan rinds make a rich and satisfying broth. Use good parmesan, you will be rewarded with great flavor. Save your rinds, you can use this trick to add flavor to any soup.

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