A Spicy Coconut Thai Curry Soup to Ring in the New Year

Happy New Year to all my readers!!

Hope that the new year is treating you all well so far, and that you are off to a great start with both your diet and exercise, work and life in general!

Remember, small steps is the key to success if you are just getting back into a routine.  Don’t go from not having moved for months to thinking you need to spend hours at the gym every day to “punish” yourself for being lazy last year, and live off carrots and celery sticks all day. This is why people only last for about 2 weeks or one month, and get dumped into the category “New Years Resolutioners” by regular gym goers.  What matters the most is that you do a little something extra every day that you didn’t do before, whether it’s walking around your neighborhood for 15 minutes or taking a 30 minute weight training class at your gym.  Soon you will want to increase that as your stamina improves and your confidence increases.

More importantly is getting in the mind set of healthy eating. I think diet is 70% of the equation if your goal is to lose weight and firm up. That is not to say that you shouldn’t exercise, as this works your heart and improves your stamina during regular daily activities and is the key to a healthy and longer life!  Neither does it mean that you shouldn’t allow yourself a treat or two a week, I am a big believer that no food should be “off limits” or thought of as “sinful”.  The brain works in mysterious ways and the forbidden foods always taste the best and is the most desirable, aren’t they?? 🙂

Ever since I adopted a plant based diet, my body feels so much lighter and my energy has sky rocketed. My taste buds have exploded, which is interesting since I work as a wine buyer and typically have thought of my self as a hyper sensitive taster. Now, I appreciate the taste of an orange for instance, SO much more, and I am constantly experimenting with new flavor combinations.

For the past couple of weeks I have been craving Thai flavored anything… and with the subzero temperatures we’ve been having in New York lately, a hot soup seemed entirely appropriate.  I finally decided to make a Thai Coconut Curry Soup yesterday, as my husband has come down with a terrible cold, and a spicy soup filled with nutritious vegetables was just what the doctor ordered.

Try this in January – your taste buds and tummy (and waist line) will thank you!!

THAI COCONUT CURRY SOUP W/TOFU and BOK CHOY

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 x 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer peeled, bruised with a knife and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 jalapeno pepper, minced (I add the seeds, but eliminate these if you don’t want too spicy)

1 tbsp green curry paste

zest of 1 lime (reserve the lime)

handful of fresh cilantro and basil leaves

1 small Vidalia onions, diced

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

6-8 cups vegetable broth

5-6 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)

1 x 15 oz can lite coconut milk

1 tbsp brown sugar

splash of olive oil

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup of another mushroom, your choice  (I used cinnamon cap mushrooms)

cinnamoncapmushrooms

2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 3-inch thin sticks

1-2 bunches of baby bok choy,  roughly chopped (if you can’t find baby bok choy, regular is fine or any other greens such as spinach, Swiss Chard, lettuce etc.)

1 packet of firm tofu, diced and cubed into 1-inch pieces

juice of 1 lime

Directions:

In a large soup pot, heat up some olive oil (about 2 tbsp) over medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, jalapeno and lemon zest. Saute until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add in the curry paste and saute another minute or two. Add in the onion and peppers, season with a bit of salt and saute for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent.  Pour in the vegetable stock, soy sauce, brown sugar and coconut milk and let come to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Add in the mushrooms, carrots, tofu and bok choy with a few leaves of basil and cilantro.  Simmer gently for another 15 minutes or so. Add in the lime juice, adjust seasoning (salt/soy and /or sugar) and serve the soup with freshly chopped cilantro and basil.   Optional: Serve with 1 cup of steamed jasmine rice and you’ve got a complete meal!

Note: This makes a LOT but it keeps in the fridge for about 5-6 days and makes a great lunch or dinner in the cold winter months, packed with muscle building nutrients and vitamins!!

Thaisoup

Shrimp + Avocados = one healthy, delicious summer recipe

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, and figured it was about time to post one that I think my readers would like. As the weather gets warmer, the nights longer and the clothing lighter, I tend to go for more seafood and shellfish and even just vegetarian options for my meals.  I like to take advantage of all the fresh produce now available at all the local farmer’s markets in my area, and what better way to utilize them than in a tasty salad? Unfortunately where I live in the country, we are not able to get avocados at the farmer’s market, but I added some anyway for your healthy fat.

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks (I have many) called “Spices of Life – Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health” by Nina Simonds.  She has a great way of utilizing herbs and spices and a variety of foods from around the world to create very exciting and delicious recipes.

Shrimp may be small in size but they pack a punch nutrition wise, plus they are really quick and easy to prepare.  Four ounces of cooked shrimp contains about 112 calories,  zero carbs  and 24grams of protein! They are also a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, rich in minerals including copper, celenium and zinc, and are very low in fat (1gram per 4 oz).   Select shrimp that have firm bodies and still have their shell on – they should be free of black spots and the shell should not appear yellow or gritty as that could indicate some sort of chemical has been used to bleach the shells (Yes, it does occur).  Purchase displayed shrimp always rather than pre-packaged shrimp, and make sure they have a fresh smell  (should not smell fish but more like seawater).

For the greens in the salad, I like to use a mix of romaine, butter lettuce, arugula and some bitter greens like escarole, to get the different flavors (spicy, sweet, leafy etc) and textures.  Ask your local farmer if they have any special or new kinds of greens – always experiment with ingredients and preparation methods, that is what makes wholesome cooking fun!

shrimp

 

SHRIMP, AVOCADO AND WILD GREENS WITH A CHARRED TOMATO DRESSING

4-6 servings

Charred Tomato Dressing:

3 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into slices about 1 inch thick

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife and peeled

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice or red wine vinegar

2 tsp ground cumin, toasted until fragrant in a dry pan over low heat

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and drained

For Salad

6 cups mixed greens of your choice, rinsed and spun dry arranged in a serving bowl

1 1/2 lbs cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to grill mine for that extra delicious charred flavor)

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into thin slices

3 tbsp minced red onion for garnish (optional)

First arrange the tomato slices on a baking sheet. Brush with 1 tbsp the olive oil (you can also spray them a bit with Pam if they seem not coated), broil the tomatoes for about 10 minutes on each side and remove.

Drop the garlic down the feed tube of a food processor fitted with a steel blade with the machine is running. Pulse until finely chopped, then drop in the tomatoes and puree, leaving some chunks. While the motor is running, add the lime juice or vinegar and 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. Add the cumin, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro, pulse briefly then taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary.

Arrange the shrimp, then the avocado slices, on top of the greens. Pour some of the dressing over and put rest into a sauce bowl. Sprinkle the minced red onion on top, if using.  And chow down!!

 

shrimpavocadosaladrecipecom

Photo from recipes.com

 

Greek Food; a great source for healthy recipes

Yesterday I was part of a media event where I led a group of lifestyle journalists through New York City, where we visited five different restaurants, tasted a variety of cuisines and paired them with wines from Burgundy. Yes, I know – I have a tough job in many ways when it comes to watching my weight, but this is my #1 passion and there is no way I would do anything else.  Our last stop was a Greek restaurant, and the hostess and chef, Maria Loi, is a wonderful woman and also the Ambassador for Greek food in the U.S.  She made me miss my summers in Greece when I was a teenager – my sister lived on the island of Skiathos for many years, in fact she even got married and had kids there.  I have always loved Greek cuisine, because of its simplicity and clean, fresh flavors .  I love the little mezedes, the Greek word for “tapas”,  small dishes made with vegetables and produce from the garden right outside your door,  so tasty to snack on while sipping on a glass of Assyrtiko or Agiorgitiko.

Lemon juice, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil are used frequently, and grilling (a very healthy method to cook your food) is often the way they choose to cook their proteins.  Octopus,  fish, chicken and lean beef is marinated in all the aforementioned spices and condiments, and just served grilled that gives it that nice, charred flavor. Accompanied with a Greek salad with lots of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, olives and a few sprinkles of feta- what could be better?

santorini

Perhaps sitting on a verandah of a beautiful white house overlooking the gorgeous blue sea would top it, instead of sitting here in the misty rain in New York? Well, we can always recreate the meal at least,  so here’s a shot at a healthy, flavorful two course Greek meal that you can test out this weekend!  These are all adapted from the fabulous book “Olive and Caper” by Susanna Hoffman

DOLMADAKIA (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Makes about 3o pieces

30 -40  bottled grape leaves, stems cut off

2 tbsp dried currants

2 tbsp golden raisins

1/4 white wine (or retsina if you can find – the Greek wine)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup short-grain rice,  such as Arborio

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tbsp finely chopped lemon zest

3/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, stems reserved

2 tbsp chopped fresh mint, stems reserved

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Lemon slices for garnish

Method:

Combine the currants and raisins with the wine and let stand for one hour.
Remove grape leaves from jar gently to avoid tearing, and squeeze out the excess liquid. Set aside

Heat the oil in a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion,  and garlic and saute for a minute. Add pine nuts, zest, salt and rice and make sure the oil coats the rice. Reduce heat to medium and saute until onion in transparent, about 5 minutes.  Add the currants and raisins with their liquid, and saute until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 min (the rice will not be cooked through).  Remove from heat and stir in the dill and mint leaves.

Line the bottom and sides of a medium-size pot or saute pan with torn or extra grape leaves and some of the reserved dill and mint stems.

On a counter, lay out as many grape leaves, veined side up, as you have room for. Place about 1/2 tbsp of the rice mixture near the stem end of each leaf. Roll the bottom of the leaf up over the stuffing. Then fold in the sides of the leaf to partially enclose the filling. Continue rolling to completely enclose the filling, forming a stubby cylinder.

grapeleaffolding

Image: traditionalturkishcooking.com

As you fill and roll the leaves, tightly pack the dolmadakia, leaf tip down, in the pan, forming concentric circles until the bottom is completely covered. When one layer is complete, make a second layer.

Continue stuffing, rolling and tightly packing the leaves until all the stuffing is used. Try to keep the top layer as even and flat as possible. Cover top layer with remaining dill and mint stems and any extra grape leaves.

Fill the pan with enough water to barely cover the leaves. Pour the lemon juice over all. Weight down the dolmadakia with a heavy plate or a slightly smaller pan partially filled with water. Set the pan on stove and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 1 hour.  Allow to cool before removing and carelly pour off the liquid, pressing down on the leaves slightly to extract excess liquid. Chill until completely cool.  Serve with a yogurt mint sauce and garnish with lemon slices.

Dolmadakia

Image: minoan-lines.ch

SOUVLAKIA  (Skewers of meat)

Makes 4 1/2 inch skewers

12 oz lean beef, lamb, pork or chicken

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried, but I prefer fresh)

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

3 whole grain pita breads

olive oil for moistening bread

6 lemon wedges

Cut the meat into 3/4 inch cubes, trim off any fat.  String enough meat on each of the six small skewers to stretch 4 1/4 inches, leaving an inch or two of space at the pointed end of the skewer. If using wooden skewers, make sure you soak them in water for about 1 hour prior to using.

Mix together 1/4 cup oil, the lemon juice, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper in a  nonreactive dish that is large enough to hold the skewers. Place the skewers in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover and place in fridge for 1 hour or up to overnight, turning occasionally.

Remove meat from fridge about 1/2-1 hour prior to cooking. When ready to cook, heat a grill to medium high or heat a griddle. Cut each slice of pita into 6 triangles. Place skewers on grill, cook for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes, taking care not to overcook the meat. While meat is cooking, moisten the pita lightly with oil and place on grill. Toast until brown all around, about 30 seconds per side.

To serve, spear 2-3 pieces of pita on the tip of each skewer. Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon wedge over each skewer.  Place souvlakia on plates and garnish with lemon wedges.  Serve with a nice Greek salad or salad of your choice.

Note: If you like, you can also add some pieces of vegetables on the skewers as well, such as zucchini, peppers and/or eggplant.

souvlakiaImage:  http://cooked.co.za

 

 

Salmon Red Curry

How has your week been going so far? Gotten those work outs in? Stuck to your diet plan? Even if you haven’t, don’t beat yourself up about it but pick up and start NOW! You can do it by making my delicious salmon curry I’ve given you the recipe for below. Salmon is one of those super foods that gives you those good omega-3 fatty acids, but be mindful to select WILD salmon – and not farm raised salmon – otherwise all those delicious nutrients most likely won’t be there. Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial not just to provide you the right kind of fat in your diet, but can also prevent blood clots, heart attacks and lowers cholesterol and the total amount of fat in the blood.   While salmon is fattier than most other fish, it’s the kind of fat you want and therefore should be included in your diet (provided you like fish -otherwise make sure you get those fish oil capsules in daily!).  Omega 3s can also relieve arthritis pain, which is good for me since I’ve developed some arthritis in my knees after multiple surgeries.

Today I did arms at the gym – I’ve started giving arms their special day because I want to bring up my biceps and triceps more. I’m supersetting biceps with a tricep exercise and go back and forth with no rest, and I get an insane pump from this. I typically do 4-5 sets of each and go to failure (reps) and today I did about 8 exercises.  I’m already getting stronger and I can see those babies under all the excess fat, which is now starting to slowly come off. All in due time  – but eating my salmon and getting those omega 3 fatty acids in will help me burn fat, as they are known to help in that area as well.

Try this for dinner and spice up your fish – as always, I appreciate feedback and any questions or comments you have about recipes, diet, training or just need a dose of motivation and inspiration!

EASY SALMON CURRY

(about 4 portions)

1 lb salmon filet, diced into 1 1/2 -2 inch cubes

1 red onion, sliced

3 tbsp red curry paste

1 cup light/reduced fat coconut milk

1 tsp soy sauce

1 red chili, finely chopped

4 scallions, sliced thinly

5-6 lime wedges

1/2 bag frozen peas

2-3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Add a bit of sunflower oil (or other vegetable oil) in a large saute pan over medium heat, add the salmon and saute for about a minute on each side and remove from pan, and set aside. Add red onion and scallions and saute until soft. Add the curry paste, coconut milk, and soy sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes until nice and fragrant.  Add the chili and the lime and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the salmon back into the pan, cook for about 1 minute, then add the peas and cook another minute and you’re all done.  Garnish with cilantro and serve. Make sure the salmon doesn’t over cook – fish cooks fast and you want it to be nice and juicy!

salmoncurry