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Help me plan a healthier daily diet.
July 21, 2009 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a healthier daily diet.

I really want to eat healithier. I don't think I'll be able to cut out meat from my diet entirely, especially not right away, so I'd like to work my way up to it. I also don't have any great love for most vegetables so that is something I'll have to work up to as well.

I've recently cut way back on fast food. I don't eat out more than once or twice a week, but I'd like to make that not at all, or at least very rarely.

I also have a job where I want to take a lunch or dinner type meal to work with me. I have access to a microwave and a refrigerator there.


Currently a typical day looks like this:

Breakfast: bowl of cereal, usually Oh!s or Honey Bunches of Oats (with cinnamon), with 2% milk. Sometimes I'll cut up a banana and add it in. On rare mornings, I'll scramble a few eggs and have buttered toast. I always burn bacon when I try to fry it.

Lunch: chicken or roast beef (from the deli, not pre-packaged) sandwich with fat-free mayo, lettuce and havarti cheese on multi-grain wheat bread with crackers and maybe an apple.

Dinner: This is where I have the most difficulty. I'm just now trying to teach myself to cook. Some nights I'll just go without. Other times I'll heat up a salmon patty and have some macaroni & cheese with it.

I can cook, I'm just lazy about doing so. I've taught myself to cook some delicious chicken pasta, but that's about the extent of my skill so far. I want to include more fruits and vegetables in every meal, and preferably have more frequent, smaller meals/snacks throughout the day.


To help, here are some of my likes and dislikes:

Like: melons, bell peppers, black olives, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, onions, apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, chicken (white meat only), beef, most any kind of fish (but no shellfish), pasta, avocado, pineapple

Dislike: pork, ham, pastrami, mushrooms, spinach, anything too spicy or sour

Willing to try: beans, just about any other vegetable

Links to sites with good tips, info, and recipes would also be appreciated.

I don't always have a lot of time to prep meals, so quick-prep meals are a plus. I also have two crock-pots (one large, one small), a toaster, and a blender at my disposal at home.

Bonus points if you can recommend something good to drink (besides water) that is not too sugary or expensive.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm going to rec my current best friend, Dr Gourmet, again, if only for the meal planning. You can also exclude/include categories of food and individual foods. He'll recommend meals that give you leftovers for the next day. You can swap out recipes to a certain extent - if it's a meatless night, you're only going to get meatless options, eg, but if it's a short-prep time night you'll be able to find one that works. Additionally, having a shopping list is great.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:07 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


For something other than water to drink, learn to enjoy unsweetened iced tea...no I'm not talking about that bagged Lipton crap, that disgusting swill requires sugar to be palatable. I'm talking about those delicious teas that cost a little more, but are so worth it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2009


whfoods.com has an excellent list of the "World's Healthiest Foods. Also, The Healthiest Diet in the World by Goldbeck and Goldbeck is detailed (though contrary to the title, doesn't really offer a diet, but educates in generalities and leaves most choices to the reader.)

In general: I don't think you can beat unsweetened fresh brewed green tea for something good to drink.
posted by Schmucko at 7:20 PM on July 21, 2009


When I was cooking for myself, I would make a normal recipe, serves 4-6 usually, and then freeze single portions in freezer bags to eat over the next several weeks, spaced out. It's some investment up-front, obviously, as you stock the freezer, but then, in a given week, I'd make maybe 2 meals, and the rest of the week I'd be eating things I'd frozen a couple of months ago. It maintains variety when you don't have enough people in your household to gobble up the whole recipe's worth.

As for gently transitioning to vegetarianism, here is one recipe I've adjusted recently, to increase the plants and decrease the meat. (I have the cookbook it's from.) I put in only 2 chicken thighs, rather than 4, on the bone, and I dice the chicken after it's cooked and stir it back in, so it flavors the whole dish, but there's not much of it. (I also toss in half a cinnamon stick and some turmeric, since that makes it taste more Moroccan to me, but that could be just me.) It freezes beautifully, to boot.
posted by palliser at 7:21 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I personally like seltzer water. I live in New England where it's always been popular and the regional brand Polar recently started making quite a variety of flavored versions with other brands following suit. But if it's only available plain where you are it's easy to flavor with a little bit of lime juice or lemon juice. Another mixture that makes a nice drink is about ⅕ pomegranate juice to ⅘ seltzer water.

And an additional benefit of having plain seltzer water handy is that it can be used to dilute other soft drinks, thereby reducing the amount of sugar without reducing the level of carbonation. I've been surprised how many popular ones like Coke or Mountain Dew that I actually prefer when they're ¼ to ½ diluted.
posted by XMLicious at 7:30 PM on July 21, 2009


Sounds like you're already thinking healthier than many. A few things that have worked for me.

1. three meals a day
2. dinner/supper is the least important of the three
3. make at least one meal a day predominantly a salad (and not a Caesar)
4. if it comes in a package, it's probably not good for you
5. if it comes from a restaurant or deli, it's probably not as good for you as you think (ie: likely has too much salt, sugar etc)
6. drink lots of water
7. be vigilant five days a week; loosen up a bit on weekends
8. "all things in moderation including moderation." Anne Landers said that. I'm sure she was quoting somebody else.
posted by philip-random at 7:32 PM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Are you trying to lose weight too? The deli meat probably doesn't fall into overly healthy.

If you're trying to lose weight you should eat more often.

I like buying roasted chickens. I'll use them for tacos, soup, salad, etc. They're cheaper than buying an uncooked chicken and quick.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:34 PM on July 21, 2009


Oo! I thought of something else we've been eating a lot of recently, and it would be so great adjusted to cooking-for-one. Here's what you would do: make the entire recipe of tomato-based broth some weekend or evening, but don't add the fish, and then freeze in one-cup portions. Buy some white, firm fish (haddock, hake, etc.) and some good bread on the way home from work (or buy frozen fish from Trader Joe's and put in in the fridge the night before). When you get home from work, heat up the broth, poach the fish in it, and there's your fish stew! I could seriously eat this once a week.

In a large soup pot, sauté a chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Add a couple of minced garlic cloves and some thyme.
Sauté until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine. Cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in 8 ounces of chicken broth (or clam juice) and a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
Add red pepper flakes to taste.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Cut the fish into 1-inch chunks. Add them to the broth; cook until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
posted by palliser at 7:34 PM on July 21, 2009 [15 favorites]


"all things in moderation including moderation."

Epicurus.
posted by Schmucko at 7:35 PM on July 21, 2009


Is there any type of food you'd like to explore?

I really like the recipes at RealSimple.com and RasaMalaysia.com

RealSimple's recipes
- You can search by ingredient or look through their categories. There are some great recipes that take less than 30 minutes to prepare.
- There are also tips and tricks for cooking in general.

RasaMalaysia's recipe index
- I'm slowly working through these and liked everything I've tried.
- The tumeric honey wings recipe can be adapted for cubed chicken breast (just substitute a couple of cut up chicken breasts for the wings) and is really tasty. I have it with some veggies (carrots/celery sticks and cucumber work!) and maybe some rice.
posted by wiskunde at 7:40 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Plan your meals for the week in advance and then do your grocery shopping. Do be sure to give yourself some leeway in the produce section, though--pick up what's on your list, but also look around and see if you can try something new. When I'm looking for inspiration, I go to Tastespotting and do a search based on whatever ingredient I want to use. I click on a few that look interesting and sort through them to weed out overly fussy or unappealing recipes, until I find the one I'm going to try.

Also, for nights when all you want is salmon and macaroni: make yourself steam some broccoli or green beans or whatever vegetable you have in the fridge. It takes five minutes and it'll add vegetables to your plate with hardly any effort. Add a little butter and salt or mix them in with the macaroni if you don't like the taste of plain steamed veggies. Either you'll get used to the taste or you'll be motivated to seek out new, interesting recipes to dress up your vegetables.

You can also try roasting vegetables (chop, toss with a little olive oil, season with salt, pepper and maybe some herbs, then roast at 450 for 15-20 minutes or until they're golden around the edges). I love cauliflower roasted with a little onion, asparagus with a little garlic, or green beans with just salt and pepper.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:49 PM on July 21, 2009


A few magazines you might be interested in:

Eating Well. They also have a great "diet" cookbook called the Eating Well diet, which is basically just "count your calories if you want to lose weight and myriad other cookbooks you can get out of your local library)

and

Clean Eating, for which there is an attached "diet" which is really neither here nor there for the magazine aside from a column from the woman who wrote the diet book. Mostly it focuses on eating "clean," that is, eating fewer processed foods and refined sugars. I've made a number of recipes from this book in the last little while and have loved them.

There's also Cooking Light which has some good stuff as well and a huge database of recipes online.
posted by synecdoche at 7:51 PM on July 21, 2009


Any reason why "eating healthier" is equivalent to "vegetarianism"? I found the most improvements for myself in terms of weight, general health, and athletic performance came from eliminating grains, sugars (not fruits thought), and starchy vegetables (like potatoes, excepting sweet potatoes).

I cook up giant pans of chicken breasts and broccoli on Sunday, and they last me all week. Cottage cheese with fruit, deli meat wrapped in collard greens, eggs with tomatoes and cheese, those types of things fill in the gaps. The secret really is pre-cooking everything, though.
posted by schroedinger at 8:09 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


You can avoid burning bacon by cooking it on a cold pan without oil, with the heat set to medium-low. The meat will cook in its own fat and you'll be able to give it a nice crust without smoking up the kitchen.
posted by chalbe at 8:17 PM on July 21, 2009


...but you should probably disregard that since bacon is the anti-weight loss drug.
posted by chalbe at 8:18 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mark Bittman of the NYTimes just released a list of 101 simple salad recipes. If what you want is cooked food, try his 101 simple summer meals. One last compendium for more specific health-conscious recipes is the NYTimes Wellness section. I've been using all three and it's helped my diet greatly, with a caveat: individually, these recipes are not gonna fulfill your 100% daily value of everything, so you need to rotate dishes throughout the week.

(Now if only I could cook my way over to the gym..)
posted by chalbe at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


Eating better is all about making better choices in your daily habits

-Switch to whole wheat pastas, brown rice and whole grain bread.
-Read package labels, the fewer ingredients the better. Avoid products that contain high fructose corn syrup.
-Get a vegetable steamer. Freshly steamed asparagus, broccoli or green beans with a little kosher salt on it is delicious.
-Bring snacks to work. Ideally these will keep you from hitting the vending machine. I bring small bags of almonds, or edamame, celery with peanut butter or a piece of fruit.
-When you get coffee somewhere, don't get the fancy whooped up frappucino type stuff. Those drinks are loaded with sugar and high fat dairy. Regular coffee or tea with a little skim milk is a better choice.
-You don't have to do super elaborate meals. A lot of the time, I grill or bake a chicken breast or piece of fish and eat that with a steamed vegetable or a big salad. Always make an extra portion so you can take it for lunch the next day.
-Alcohol has loads of calories, especially beer. Drink in moderation.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:29 PM on July 21, 2009


1. A simple stir fry: steam some chopped bell peppers, green beans, onions and broccoli.

You can cook some rice noodles the same way you would pasta but it won't take as long. For a simple sauce, put a couple spoons of peanut butter, a splash of lime juice, soy sauce, powdered ginger, hot peppers and water to thin into a pan and heat until it all mixes together when you stir.

2. You don't like spinach but for a salad: try green leafy lettuce, blueberries, goat cheese and a simple lemon juice/oil/salt/pepper dressing. Mmm!

3. Salted edamame (you can buy frozen bags of it).

4. Seconding the iced tea suggestion and make it yourself.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:44 PM on July 21, 2009


I recommend The World's Healthiest Foods and their Healthiest Way Of Eating Plan.
posted by torquemaniac at 8:52 PM on July 21, 2009


I've been saying this the past couple weeks like a broken record, but she helped me immensely in the past year learn how to cook, I mean really, day-in-day-out, non-special-occasion,-quick-and-healthy-and-fresh cook dinner and weekend lunches. She leans heavily towards full-bodied flavorful salads and vegetables-as-main-course meals due to personal preference as well as living with a vegetarian.

Some excellent examples of her powers:

-Warm Chickpea Salad with Shallots and Red Wine Vinaigrette
-Escarole Salad with Avocado and Parmesan
-Quick Braised Pork with Vinegar and Peppers
-Tomatoes Filled with Rice
-French-Style Warm Lentil Salad (incredible)
-Red Seasonal Salad
-Almost-Summer Rice Noodle Salad
-Asparagus Vinaigrette with Egg
-Balthazar Salad, which reminds me, you don't have to seek out all the exotic leafy greens she loves so much if that seems daunting to you at first. You can use those premixed salad blends, just fancier mixes, to start off with and see if you like them.
-Kale and Cheddar Frittata. SO EASY and really really good, and keeps well for leftover lunch at room temperature.
-Braised Green Cabbage with Onions, Carrots, and a Poached Egg. She has a whole bunch of sauteed and braised cabbage recipes; they're all very tasty and healthy.

Another healthy option is to do more involved stuff on the weekends, like soups and slow-cooked red beans n rice type stuff, and eat over the week. If soup is your style, you could make all sorts of stuff; the possibilities are endless. Orangette's new book has one that includes vanilla bean and squash!

I've also posted this recipe a million times this month on AskMe, but it does fit in ease and healthiness. This fresh pasta sauce doesn't even require cooking; you let the fresh tomatoes and herbs and leafy greens just sit on the counter for a while and then toss with pasta. Really healthy stuff.

Black Bean Salads are ideal in summer and very healthy. Here's three: 1, 2, 3 (disclosure: the 3rd one is one I myself posted; that's my friend's blog).

Speaking of no-cook healthy bean salads for summer, the following recipe is classic, and it's crazy how simple and healthy it is. The first time I made it I was sure it'd be crap, it looked unappetizing even, but somehow it works like magic.
Tuscan Tuna and Beans
From Not Your Mother's Weeknight Cooking by Beth Hensperger

Need a simple but substantial main-dish salad and time is of the essence? Here is one of the staples of Italy's scrumptious, economical cucina povera, tuna and white kidney beans, which should be among your staple pantry items. It's great with some crusty ciabatta bread to use as a scooper along with your fork.

Serves 4.

Cooking Method: None
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Three 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Three 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained well and broken into rough chunks
2/3 cup finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup olive oil
1 to 2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated

Combine the beans, tuna, onion, and parsley in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, and salt; drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly. Pour the dressing over the beans and tuna; toss to combine. Place lettuce leaves on 4 plates and top with the salad. Serve immediately.

Personal Note: Another good "no cook" meal for the summer repository, the stuff you turn to when it's so hot your brains are melting and the idea of putting anything together makes you feel nauseous.

EDIT, now that I've made it: Wow, it's bizarre how tasty this is. It is extremely homely--I finished whipping it up and looked at it, not very excited and quite frankly a little worried I'd just wasted a ton of canned goods on something tasteless and cardboard-y--but the textures work beautifully, and it's refreshing and strangely luscious and full of flavor. Weird stuff. I was sure I'd have to at least throw some black pepper in to spice it up, but no...and it's obscene how "good" this is for you--beans! Tuna for a novel, balanced source of protein! Garlic! Heart-healthy olive oil! Leafy greens! Crazy how healthy it really is, and simple, but so delicious. Absolutely perfect for those hot blistering FAIL summer evenings when imagining making dinner or even eating it makes you ill.
Around when I'm planning my grocery list for the week based on sales and whatnot, I put together the week's loose meal plan. This may be helpful for you. It's easier to eat healthy and well and on schedule, and not give up and just go to a restaurant, if you've planned ahead on a day off when you have time, or during a free moment at work, at your leisure and pleasure.

As for beverages, I've recently learned how to make Southern Sweet Tea (I'm a Yank but my boyfriend isn't!), and during the research for the ultimate version I discovered from many Southern gals I'm friends with Splenda Sweet Tea is actually preferred by many. I tried making it and lo. Yes it still has caffeine, but it's a really refreshing pick me up. Here's my final version:
Southern Sweet Tea

Yield: One 2-quart (64-ounce) pitcher

Pinch (say, 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) baking soda
3 or 4 family-size Luzianne teabags, tied together for convenience's sake (or 6-8 normal-size black teabags)
2 cups just-boiling water (use cold, fresh water to start with, filtered if desired)
1/3 to 1/4 cup Splenda
6 cups cool water
1 lemon, quartered into wedges

Sprinkle baking soda into a heat-proof container (I've been using a 2-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup, but if I had my way it'd be larger to prevent overflow). Add teabags. Pour boiling water over teabags, cover, and let steep for 15 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard teabags, taking care not to squeeze them (squeezing does indeed make for bitter tea).

The finished tea should go in a 2-quart (64-ounce) pitcher, preferably glass as well. If the container used was not the final intended pitcher, pour the concentrated tea from the measuring cup into the desired pitcher directly over the sugar and stir, making sure the sugar dissolves. (Otherwise, just pour the sugar into the tea and stir to dissolve). Pour in cool water and refrigerate until cold. When ready to serve, gently squeeze lemon wedges over tea and use as garnish, either in individual glasses or the entire pitcher.
My next step is to make a go-to version of sweet iced tea but with fresh mint and green tea. Bet that'll be even better and more refreshing to my Northern sensibilities.

Someone a while back mentioned putting a slice of cucumber in ice water, which sounds weird but is refreshing in a sort of salad-y way. Worth a shot.

More ideas if I think of them.
posted by ifjuly at 9:19 PM on July 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


50/50 rule: half the plate is vegetables. The other half is everything else (protein, starch, fat, whatever).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:25 PM on July 21, 2009


Also: I have a recipe!

I make a pot of this soup on Sundays, have it for dinner Sunday night and take a Thermos of it with me every day M-F for lunch. It's about 160 calories per serving. I usually eat a serving of baked tofu (I like Soy Deli's honey sesame flavor) with it, or have a yogurt for "dessert" to make it a more substantial meal. It's so good for you!

1 med. yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 med zucchini, sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 10-oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed
14-oz can of stewed tomatoes
1 can of kidney beans
1.5 cups V-8 vegetable juice
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
5.5 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves, crushed
Cayenne pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, saute garlic, onion, leek, zucchini, pepper, and mushrooms, stirring frequently, until onion is semi-transparent. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, loosely covered and stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:37 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


As far as dinner goes, I basically always start by roasting veggies when I'm feeling lazy. Lately my favorite is to cut up red bell pepper along with a bunch of scallions or a red onion, then maybe add asparagus, eggplant, or whatever looks pretty at the market. The oven should be anywhere from 375-450, I get out a cookie sheet, spray it with Pam, throw the veggies on the cookie sheet, maybe add salt, then throw it into the oven for about 30 minutes or so.

As far as carbs go, if I haven't used Alton Brown's method of baking brown rice (I try to keep a lot of brown rice in my fridge ready to go), I usually cut up a russet potato, nuke it for about 5 minutes, then throw that in a separate cookie sheet.

This is my favorite part (my mom just gave me this recipe yesterday): spray a vegetable steamer with Pam, place it in a pot with a few inches of cold water, put your filet(s) of sole in the steamer, then turn on the heat & let it cook for maybe 4 minutes (it's okay to peek). Take out the fish, pour about 1Tb of soy sauce on top of it and add a smidge of sesame oil. That's it. It's ridiculous delicious and ready almost immediately.
posted by ohyouknow at 10:31 PM on July 21, 2009


For lazy dinners, I have to endorse the slow cooker. Chili, stews, bean or lentil dishes, soups - there's a ton of options. Throw the ingredients in in the morning, have 4-5 days' worth of meals ready by dinnertime. Steel-cut oats cooked overnight plus dried fruit or maple syrup for breakfast. All these options reheat in the microwave, either for lunch at work or paired with bread or rice and steamed vegetables for dinner in ten minutes. It's a lifesaver when you don't feel like cooking.
posted by five toed sloth at 10:58 PM on July 21, 2009


Brain dump ahead:

I have two types of dinners. Those that I make ahead of time and freeze in single meals. Examples: chilli, curry, soup. I'll often cook them on Sunday evening as it's when I seem to have time. I make sure that they have at least three different type of veg in them - I am an expert at adding veges to a recipe - that way I have a nutritious meal without having to make sides. Your crockpots will probably be useful here.

My second type is the "faster than walking down the road for takeaway" meal. These include stirfrys, ommlettes, chunk of meat and steamed veg or salad. The ommlette is a great place to start. Stirfry veg in about a tsp butter, pour in three beaten eggs with a bit of water or milk. Move it around a bit until you can't anymore. Grate on some cheese, fold over. Salt, pepper. Even if it doesn't work and looks like a total mess, it'll still taste good. A good easy salad as meal is tabouli with a can of (rinsed) brown lentils tossed in too.

Take your own makings of a sandwich to work. All through summer I would take turkish bread, cheese, baby spinach, capsicum and mushrooms to work. It took less time to make and toast than to buy one. Cost significantly less too.

Snack on nuts and fruit and yoghurt.
posted by kjs4 at 11:13 PM on July 21, 2009


"Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."

Google it and this shows up.

An article I read in The Economist attributed the quote to Benjamin Franklin.
posted by snowjoe at 6:37 AM on July 22, 2009


One way I found to get in more veggies was to pre-cut them when I get them from the grocery store. You can even pre-cut a stirfry mix (onion, carrot, celery, greens/broccoli, mushrooms), a pasta mix (onion, celery, sundried tomatoes, red peppers), soup mix (whatever you want), salad mix (lettuce, tomatoes, etc.) and keep them in tupperware containers in the fridge for up to a week. That way, when you 're tired and want supper quickly after work, most of the prep-work is already done.

In the winter, I'm a big user of the slow cooker as well. Basically, any stew recipe with a lot of water can be done in advance and left on while you're away.

And when you have the energy, make more. For e.g., if I'm bbq-ing hamburgers in the summer, I usually make some meatballs to freeze as well, so that in the winter I can just pop them in some tomato sauce to reheat.
posted by Kurichina at 8:02 AM on July 22, 2009


How to Eat Better
posted by symbollocks at 10:23 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought of a couple more recipes you might want to try.

When time is of the essence, burgers are good for fast cooking, but obviously not that healthy. This turkey burger recipe is a lot healthier than using beef, and we think it's pretty good:
Turkey Burgers
Adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics

Makes 4.

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/4 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1/4 yellow bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1 medium shallot, minced
2 scallions, minced
1 teaspoon hot red-pepper sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns and 1/2 bunch watercress for topping, if desired

1. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high. Combine turkey, peppers, shallot, scallions, pepper sauce, Worcestershire, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; mix very lightly to combine.

2. Form 4 patties with a depression in the center of each (to keep from puffing during cooking) and place them on the hot grill; cook through, about 7 minutes per side.

3. Serve on toasted buns with toppings, if desired.
Since you mentioned blueberries:
Glazed Blueberry Chicken
From The Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition

This recipe was developed to showcase Blueberry Chutney, a very special preserve of fresh blueberries, vinegar, cinnamon and cloves. Wild rice would be good to serve, as would a buttered green vegetable like asparagus.

1/2 cup Blueberry Vinegar (see recipe; you could also use that blueberry pomegranate vinegar they have at the store)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 chicken (2 1/2 to 3 lbs.), quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup Blueberry Chutney (available at specialty shops) or preserves
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley for garnish (optional)
Grated orange zest for garnish (optional)

1. Combine the blueberry vinegar and thyme in a large bowl. Add the chicken, turn to coat with the marinade, and marinate for 2 hours, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

3. Arrange chicken pieces, skin side up, in a flameproof baking pan, reserving the marinade. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper and coat it lightly with the blueberry chutney or preserves.

4. Bake the chicken on the center rack of the oven until it is cooked through, about 1 hour, basting occasionally with the marinade Do not baste in the last 15 minutes of baking.

5. Transfer chicken to a serving platter and cover to keep warm.

6. Skim fat from cooking juices and set the baking pan over medium heat. Add the marinade and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce by 1/3 or until sauce is lightly thickened. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley and orange zest. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

2 to 4 portions.


Blueberry Vinegar

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 Tablespoon honey
1 piece (2 inches) cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves

Prepare the blueberry vinegar one day ahead. Combine the vinegar ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate, covered, overnight. Strain before using. There should be 1/4 cup.
I think this is AMAZING, and it was very novel, at least to me. It sounds weird but it's awesome:
Caramelized Cauliflower with Salsa Verde
From Orangette

This recipe needs no real guidelines other than this: be sure to make the salsa verde before roasting the cauliflower, so that it has time to sit. The garlic and lime need to mellow and meld, and you'll notice a marked difference in the flavor after about 30 minutes.

For the salsa verde:
1 medium jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 medium cloves garlic, minced with a pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

For the cauliflower:
1 medium cauliflower (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

First, prepare the salsa verde. In a medium bowl, combine the jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and olive oil and whisk to combine. Add two pinches of salt, or more, to taste, and whisk well. Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash and dry the cauliflower well. Put it on a cutting board, stem side down, and slice it vertically, top down, into 1/4-inch slices. You'll only get about 4 intact slices, and the rest will be a hash of cauliflower crumbs. That's okay. Put the cauliflower in a large bowl and toss with 2 Tablespoons olive oil. (I find that my hands work best for this.) You want each little bit of cauliflower to get a thin coat of oil. If necessary, add 1 more Tablespoon. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on a heavy sheet pan, or if the pan seems crowded, use 2 pans. You don't want it packed too tightly, or the cauliflower will steam rather than roast. Salt it lightly.

Bake until the cauliflower is tender, golden, and even deeply browned in spots, 20 to 30 minutes, turning once with a spatula. Salt lightly again.

Serve cauliflower hot or warm, with salsa verde on the side for drizzling.

Yield: 4 side-dish servings or 2 larger servings.
Cauliflower is also delicious and a lot healthier relative to the usual cheese sauce stuff if you roast it after tossing it with curry spices.

For something refreshing but not TOO processed and terrible for you, lime basil sorbet or other fresh fruit (cranberry and ginger, for example) sorbets are good and easy to make; you don't need an ice cream maker. It's still got sugar in it, but it does involve fresh fruit, so it's at least a bit better for you than say, Haagen-Dasz or something in the middle of summer. And it's so flavorful you only eat a couple little spoonfuls at a time anyway.
Basil and Lime Sorbet

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup (approximately 6 limes) fresh lime juice
18 to 20 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Sprig of fresh basil for each serving as a garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.

In a food processor or blender, puree lime juice, sugar syrup, and chopped basil leaves.

Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time. When ready to serve, use a melon baller and place 3 scoops in a stemmed glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and serve.

Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Cover and keep frozen.
If you have a sweet tooth and your palate is open to it, another approach is to go for quality over quantity and start keeping little reserves of high quality, very dark chocolate to nibble on for dessert instead of the super sugary cheap stuff. A little square will do ya, and it's much better for you anyway.

I never thought I liked okra until I made it this way. It's incredible and takes like 5 seconds to make. The trick is to pick smaller specimens of okra, not the big pods. That keeps it from being slimy.
Recipe: Sauteed Okra with Quick Tomato Sauce
From America's Test Kitchen

Tomatoes and okra are a classic combination. This juicy side dish, served with rice or pasta, makes a perfect accompaniment to chicken or fish, such as halibut or catfish.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound small okra (no more than 3 inches long), stems removed
Salt and ground black pepper
4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the okra and cook, stirring occasionally, until the okra is bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the okra to a bowl.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the empty pan. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in the okra and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the basil and adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Personal Note: This is from The Best Recipe cookbook series from America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated. It's in the Perfect Vegetables volume. My mom gave me a zillion of them when I went away on my own to college. Robert loves okra, being all Southern and whatnot (he also likes grape soda and white gravy, ee), and I admitted when I first visited Memphis that it was palatable fried. However, I'd only ever seen it fried or in that snotty monstrosity people who hate okra are familiar with, boiled or whatever in a slimy pile. This is great though--it's ridiculous how easy and quick it is, and now that I've made it a few times I know it's totally foolproof. The okra has this snap or "bite" to it that is just ! It's my favorite way to eat okra now, even more than fried...it goes so well with the tomato and the spice of the red pepper. Yum.
Cook's Illustrated did a bunch of chopped salads in the last issue or so. I know, I know, chopped salads evoke images of watery bland feminine luncheon crap. But that was the whole point; they were trying to fix them, make them NOT that way. And how--I tried all three variations, and they were amazing. This one was my favorite, and just thinking about it is making me hungry:
Pear and Cranberry Chopped Salad

Serves 4 as a light entree or 6 as a side dish.

1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups)
Table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 ripe but firm pear cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1/2 small red onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 romaine heart, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
Ground black pepper

1. Combine cucumber and 1/2 teaspoon salt in colander set over bowl and let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk oil and vinegar together in large bowl. Add drained cucumber, bell pepper, pear, onion, and cranberries; toss and let stand at room temperature to blend flavors, 5 minutes.

3. Add romaine, blue cheese, and pistachios; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Personal Note: It cracks me up that the introduction to this feature in this summer's issue of the magazine goes on about how these salads get associated with 1950s pink-clad hatted "ladies who lunch" watching their figure with watery "and the kitchen sink" crisper drawer fall-outs. The author wanted to resurrect these salads, but fix them too. Turns out it was a noble endeavor and very worth it, and this happens to be my favorite of the entire story spread. I recently had a modded Radicchio Mixed Greens and Radish with Pear and Parmesan salad from Molly at Orangette that made me see the light re: pears with vinaigrette and leafy greens (wow!), so maybe this was just the perfect next step in my appreciation. Whatever; it was super delicious, and I scarfed it up ravenously for lunch the next day too.

I've tried the Mediterranean one since, and it was also good, though not nearly as uniquely tasty as this. The toasted pistachios are vital to the perfect contrasts offered here...oh, and I didn't use blue cheese but instead goat cheese or feta, I forget. Something tangy and creamy and soft. Like I keep saying: delicious.
This is an unusual pasta dish with veggies:
Spaghetti with Zucchini, Basil, and Mint
From Not Your Mother's Weeknight Cooking by Beth Hensperger

Once I tasted the combination of fresh basil and mint, I was hooked. Then I found out the partnering has a long tradition in Italian country food. This is a lovely summer pasta, satisfying for those nights when you want something light and vegetable-y. Remember to only pack the cup measure loosely with the herbs; there will be plenty to flavor the entire bowl of pasta. You will need at least a 12-inch saute pan or skillet for this dish, and it will be filled to capacity once you add the pasta. If your skillet is smaller, combine the zucchini and pasta in a shallow serving bowl instead. If you like, this can serve eight as a side dish to grilled or roasted chicken.

Cooking Method: Stovetop
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: About 30 minutes

1 pound semolina or whole wheat spaghetti
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds small zucchini, cut into thin round slices on the diagonal
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup loosely packed finely shredded fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed finely shredded fresh mint leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the zucchini (you don't want to crowd it) and cook, stirring frequently, until golden on both sides. Do not overcook. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and add the remaining oil and cook the remaining zucchini until golden. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the basil and mint. Add the reserved cooked zucchini back into the skillet, then season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 1 minute to wilt the herbs.

3. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the skillet and gently toss with the zucchini; add a bit of pasta water if it looks too dry, then taste for salt. Divide among dinner plates, sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve immediately.

Personal Note: Fresh mint is tricky stuff; luckily I've already learned so the hard way long ago, and knew to be conservative with it here. Too much would ruin the pasta and make it taste medicinal, I reckon. This dish has a pretty unique flavor, at least in our house, and it's very welcome on a hot summer night. It tastes incredibly light.

I took a cue from the Cook's Illustrated Master Recipe for Zucchini/Summer Squash with Pasta; to prevent soggy zucchini, I tossed the prepped slices in a colander with kosher salt for 30 minutes until 1/3 cup of water had leaked out underneath. I wiped 'em down and went about cooking them, taking care not to crowd them lest they steam instead of saute. It worked as well as last time--the zucchini was golden and nearly crispy, not soggy.
Rice with Carrots and Lemon (Komida de Sefanorya)
From Sephardic Flavors by Joyce Goldstein

Meri Badi's original Judeo-Spanish recipe for this dish calls for cooking the grated carrots for 30 minutes and then cooking them 30 minutes longer with the rice. By then, I suspect they will have disintegrated, so I have shortened the cooking time. I also have added a bit of grated lemon zest to brighten the flavors and suggest a sprinkling of parsley or mint for contrast. This is a pretty dish, with the strips of golden carrots and grains of rice in about equal amounts.

Serves 6 to 8.

2 pounds carrots, coarsely grated (it's a lot of carrots, so use a food processor if you have one)
1/4 cup olive oil
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup raisins or dried currants, plumped in hot water (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or mint (optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)

Peel the carrots and grate them on the largest holes of a box grater or with the shredder disk on a food processor. You should have about 6 lightly packed cups.

Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots, lemon zest and juice, water, and salt, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring from time to time, until the carrots are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the rice, stir well, cover the pan, and continue to cook over low heat until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let rest, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes.

Spoon the rice and carrots into a serving dish and top with the parsley or mint, if desired. Serve at once.

Variation: For a sweet-and-sour dish, add 1/3 cup raisins or dried currants, plumped in hot water, when adding the rice. If adding toasted nuts, stir them in just before serving the rice.
Here's a super easy, healthy soup:
White Bean Soup with Greens
From Not Your Mother's Weeknight Cooking by Beth Hensperger

I am always looking for ways to cook greens. This southern Italian soup features creamy white beans and a big bunch of fresh greens. You will adore it for its tastiness with so few ingredients, characteristic of cucina povera, which uses the simplest foods in a loving and clever manner. Choose from Great Northern beans or cannellini beans. Do not add the salt before the soup has finished cooking, or it may become too salty.

Serves 4.

Cooking Method: Stovetop
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: About 30 minutes

1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard or escarole, ends trimmed
6 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 15-ounce can white beans of your choice, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the greens and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until barely tender. Drain the greens into a colander, squeezing out as much water as possible. It is not necessary to cut the greens, because they will break apart while they cook in the soup.

2. Add the broth to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, beans, and greens. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, stir, and serve hot. Pass the cheese and pepper flakes at the table.

Personal Note: I'm a little bit skeptical of the promise of awesome, hearty, rich soup that cooks for 30 minutes or less, yet this book features a whole chapter of 'em. We shall see! I must say I love the idea of soups so simple, where the star fresh ingredient is greens and everything else is just pantry standard fare. Gonna walk over to Easy Way and pick up some salad greens anyway--it's pretty out, and I have the time.

EDIT: I made this to help my boyfriend get over his cold, and wow. He loved it.
To mix it up a little, here's a seafood recipe that takes very little time.
Lee Wan Ching's Sizzling Pepper and Salt Shrimp
From Saveur

Serves 4.

1 lb. large shrimp
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. chile powder
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh chile
2 scallions, chopped

1. Remove the shrimp legs, leaving the shells and tails on. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and set on several sheets of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and chile powder.

2. Heat a 14" flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1-2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tbsp. of the oil, add the garlic and sliced chile, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and 1 tbsp. of the oil and stir-fry for 1 minute or until the shrimp just begin to turn pink. Swirl in the remaining 1 tbsp. oil, add the salt mixture, and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until the shrimp are just cooked. Stir in the scallions.

Personal note: Man I love scallions. This is really easy to make (it suits me; I like some prep work, a little here and there sort of business, and then rapid cooking that makes use of the efficiency of having that prep work in place) and pretty tasty.
posted by ifjuly at 11:42 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Make it a goal to eat a serving of fruit with EVERY meal.

Get in the habit of buying more fruit than you think you can eat every time you go to the store.

When you get home from the store, see if any of your fruit is (a) something you'd like pre-cut (like melon) and (b) ripe enough to cut up. If you want cut melon and it's ripe enough, cut it up and stick it in the fridge.

Put a sign on your fridge that says "Fruit!"

When you're packing your lunch for work, remember to bring some fruit.

When you're reheating the frozen dinners you've started storing up, peel a piece of fruit.

While your scrambled eggs are setting, wash a piece of fruit.

Once you've got that down - start thinking about how you can work greens into every lunch and dinner, and as many breakfasts as you're willing to try. (Spinach in your breakfast burrito. Chard in a veggie scramble. Leftover pizza with bell peppers and spinach.)

I've found that focusing on all the stuff I want to eat MORE of helps me actually eat more of those things while simultaneously making it easy to reduce the number of burgers and cookies I eat.

Finally, spend half an hour a week or so just browsing recipes for fun. Maybe think of a food you'd like to eat more of, and look for recipes that use it. I've never been a huge cauliflower fan, but then I discovered cauliflower salad with red bell peppers and jalapenos. It's addictive.
posted by kristi at 1:39 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Low-cal, healthy, non-water beverage: buy a bottle of unsweetened 100% cranberry juice and cut it with 50% water when you drink it. Home brewed iced tea of either the sweet or unsweet varieties are also good. For sweet tea, I use 5 regular sized black tea bags steeped for 5 minutes in a pot of water that had been heated just below a boil and taken off the heat. Mix with 1 cup sugar and enough ice water to make one gallon.
posted by Night_owl at 1:41 PM on July 22, 2009


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