Re-establishing a healthy diet

Utica Greens and Beans. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Since retirement, I have gained about five pounds, which doesn’t seem like much, but my body fat went from about 15 percent to roughly 25 percent. And I’m biking for an hour, three to four times a week. Likely because those healthier breakfasts and lunches on weekdays were supplanted by leftovers, so in essence, I went from eating a healthy breakfast and lunch with an average dinner to two calorie dense dinner-type meals daily. Apparently, I fell off the bandwagon 21 months ago.

If You Fall …
You just get back up. For starters, I must limit what and how much I cook during the week. This wasn’t an issue while working, as I simply made one large pot of “something” on the preceding weekend that was meant to last the whole work week. Therefore, other than our weekday mixed vegetable lunches, we only had one other filled Rubbermaid container of food that we consumed for dinner. Because I’m not limited to cooking just on the weekends, I cook throughout the week, especially when we find 30 percent reduced, manager’s sales at Safeway because the protein’s pull date is that day or the next. And though I still try to purchase healthier proteins, when that ground lamb is 30 percent off or the BBQ marinated tri-tip is 30 percent off, or those select $5 Fridays where a full three-pound container of Reser’s Potato or Macaroni is just $5, you get the picture. I’m not exactly always opting for cooked vegetables.

Small Changes
For starters, I’ve decided to fill the large Rubbermaid container (previously used for weekday lunches) with vegetables once again. They won’t necessarily be filled with the same type of cooked vegetables that we used to take to work. I’ll likely fill them with either grilled or roasted vegetables. Grilling adds a bit of charred flavor that can substitute for charred meats that might have displaced the vegetables. Roasting also concentrates the flavors and concentrates sugars, and selecting root vegetables to add complex starches can supplant some of the rice, bread and pasta that found a space — often a large space — on my dining plate, which may have contributed to my “physical” changes. I’ll still include chicken breast and seafood to amp up the protein, but will also likely try to substitute more soy protein in the form of tofu and tempeh as well as gluten-based protein substitutes in place of beef and pork. And beans will continue to be a regular part of the diet.

Cauliflower With White Beans and Capers
1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided use)
Salt
Pepper
4 garlic cloves, sliced
4 tbsp rinsed and drained capers
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, cassoulet, navy, etc.)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cauliflower and White Beans. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Preheat the Oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower pieces with two tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some cracked pepper. Toss well. Transfer the cauliflower to a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Shake the pan to loosen and move the cauliflower and cook for another six to eight minutes. Set it aside.

Pour the remaining two tablespoons of oil into a cold frying pan, add the sliced garlic, capers and cumin seeds and then turn the heat to high. When the garlic turns golden, add the pimentón and then the sherry vinegar. Cook for 20 seconds to reduce the liquid a bit. Reduce the heat to medium and add the beans; cook for about three minutes, until the beans are warmed through. Add the roasted cauliflower. Make sure the ingredients are well mixed, then sprinkle with parsley and serve.

One of my new favorites is escarole. It looks like a type of lettuce but is actually a member of the chicory family which also includes radicchio, endive and frisée with that characteristic bitterness. Therefore you can use a mixture of these “greens” (since radicchio is purple) for a variation of Utica greens.

Utica Greens
2 heads escarole (or mix with frisée, radicchio and endive)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup prosciutto, diced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 hot pickled cherry peppers, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated

Rinse the escarole and chop it into small pieces.

Bring salted water to a boil and blanch the escarole for one minute. Drain in a colander and run under cold water. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the prosciutto, garlic and onion and cook for about five minutes. Add the drained escarole and cherry peppers (if using it). Stir it all together and add a little salt and pepper if desired. Cook until the escarole is wilted, about five minutes.

Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and cheese and stick under the broiler for two minutes to brown the top.

So add more veggies to your diet which also may help with the battle of the bulge…

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

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