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Feature Fri Oct 31 2008
As I think about Tuesday's election, change is on my mind. Not the change to a new presidential administration, but more of an internal job.
I, uh, am trying to eat healthier.
It's not that I have a diet of pizza, Dunkin' Stix and root beer, but I'd like to make my daily eating a little greener. While a lot of people watching their weight can get sidetracked by an all-or-nothing philosophy that doesn't trust that small, gradual changes in food choices can lead to long-term success, I'm trying to take the things I like and trick them into something healthier. Perhaps my new point of view is similar to what these two books about cleverly substituting ingredients in common dishes promote, but for adults.
Here are some recipes that will put you on the path to health greatness without you actually knowing it.
Italian Beef CHICAGO-STYLE "BEEF" SEITAN SANDWICH
I love meat, but can't cook it very well--I don't have the skill for monitoring it correctly, so as a result I've been left with rubberized steak and brick-like chicken breasts in the past. So I turn to meat subsitutes--Boca burgers, Gardenburger riblets, and my fave, seitan. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and can step in for dishes made with chicken (Asian dishes tend to treat it as an alternative to duck). Bite Café has a nice seitan option on their menu (the last time I visited, it was an Italian-style sandwich), but if you're up for a Chicago favorite, here's a nice recipe that boots out the beef for a healthier alternative:
Ingredients (Serves 4-6):
1 pound seitan, very thinly sliced
3 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
2 tablespoons Hot Italian Giardiniera (if you can't find it, substitute 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, for heat)
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sliced and seeded green bell peppers
If using a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and stir to incorporate. Cook on high for 2 to 4 hours. If using a stovetop, place all ingredients in a large pot, stir to combine, and simmer, covered, over medium heat for 1 hour. Lightly steam French rolls. Spoon seitan and peppers into each roll. Just before serving, spoon a few tablespoons of the "au jus" over each sandwich to somewhat saturate the roll.
Beef Chili VEGETARIAN BEEF CHILI
My older sister was a vegetarian when I was younger, and needed separate eats at family dinners as a result. While no one touched her Tofurkey at Thanksgiving, making vegetarian chili became a staple--and eventually, a tradition.
1 pkg vegetarian burger mix (enough to make 4 burgers)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 can (16 oz.) crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (16 oz) beans (kidney, pinto, garbanzo, or black beans)
2 tbsp chili powder
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Cook burners according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large pot, combine remaining ingredients. Crumble burgers with your fingers and add to chili mixture. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Pumpkin Pie PUMPKIN FLAN
I, uh, have belonged to a certain weight loss group that requires weekly weigh-ins and meetings to discuss the importance of drinking skim milk. While the program works for the truly dedicated, I had to quit for spiritual reasons, but not before I discovered this righteous recipe for pumpkin flan that is far more flavorful than its pie counterpart.
1/2 cup(s) unpacked brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp table salt
16 oz canned pumpkin
1 cup(s) fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup(s) orange juice
3/4 cup(s) fat-free egg substitute
8 tbsp lite whipped topping
1/2 medium orange(s), cut into 8 thin wedges
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together sugar, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in pumpkin, milk, orange juice and egg substitute; divide among eight 6-ounce custard cups. Set custard cups in a high-rimmed roasting pan and pour boiling water around them to a depth of 1 inch. Bake until firm around edges and slightly puffed, about 45 minutes. Remove cups from water (careful not to burn yourself), cool completely, cover and refrigerate. Before serving, top each cup with a tablespoon of whipped topping and an orange wedge.