Bless Your Spoon: The year for healthy eating

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 12, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Isn’t it wonderful to know we have options and new choices anytime we take a notion? Waiting for a new year to roll around isn’t necessary but it’s a prime time to push the reset button. Among improvements to our lives, one focus is optimal health. We improve our overall well-being by adding more healing foods to our diet. These help calm inflammation, the body’s response to illness.

A beneficial change is a refocus on food choices and adding more plant-based foods like green vegetables such as broccoli, arugula, spinach and kale. Eggs, poultry, berries, nuts, seeds, ginger, honey, garlic and parsley are other favorable choices. Another good idea is to stabilize blood sugars by eating more protein-rich foods like salmon and other fish. Beans, lentils, peas and quinoa provide protein and good options for vegetarians. But there are pros and cons to any food relevant to your personal health status.

The point is to reset and renew. So try to set a few personal goals and strive to meet your expectation and no one else’s. You don’t need to fill the kitchen sink with too many changes at once, just pick one and start there. Then as the new habit becomes consistent, add another. Before long, you’ll be the picture of healthy eating.

This a recipe column and not a health advisory — I’m a nurse and not a doctor or dietician. What I suggest might not pass muster or cut the mustard, so to speak. Always do your research and check with your doctor about your specific condition and best food choices for healing.

On a side note, the phrase “pass muster” refers to lining up for a military inspection and hopefully, you meet the required standard and pass muster. “Cutting the mustard” — that’s the same as passing muster — you’re meeting an expectation. But when you hear someone say something doesn’t “pass the mustard” — that’s known as an eggcorn. An eggcorn is an incorrect phrase formed when someone hears and repeats the wrong words.

Today’s recipes include a savory lentil loaf that cuts the mustard when served with delicious mustard gravy. The sauce calls for you to make a request as in  please “pass the mustard” — and will be used in correct context.

Also included are tasty selections that help you begin to incorporate a few healing foods. Healthy foods are best eaten whole, but start by selecting new foods as you begin to work toward better health. Think baby steps — small bites of the apple — you don’t have to eat the entire fruit. But you’ll be one step closer to being a new, changed you — think reset and renewal.

Last week we talked about the obstacles in our lives and how we can get through anything by holding on to our faith in God. Among many lessons in Joshua, another is of a crossing over — a changed people. A select group of people had a choice to obey God, and no other gods, and to remove all idols from their lives. Joshua called the people to turn away from priorities that got in the way of worshipping God. Just as we commit to better health, we must also continue to renew our commitment to obey Him above all authority and to worship only Him. He will then give us all we need to make better choices and overcome temptations.

In the New Year, I raise my glass to healthy living!

“May you live for as long as you want, and never want for as long as you live!”  (Abbot and Costello)

Lentil Loaf with Gravy

• Extra virgin olive oil

• 1 chopped onion

• 3 minced cloves garlic

• ½ cup chopped red bell pepper

• ½ cup chopped celery

• 2 cups cooked lentils

• 1 cup cooked white rice

• ½ cup bread crumbs

• 1 tsp. each thyme, oregano

• 2 beaten eggs

• ¼ cup whole milk

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (optional)

In a skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, bell pepper and celery for several minutes until softened. Add cooked lentils and mix well. Set aside to cool. When cooled, add cooked rice, bread crumbs, herbs, beaten eggs, milk, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add another cup of cooked rice if needed to bond. Spoon mixture into a well-greased 9 x 5 loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 -55 minutes or until firm. Serve with mustard gravy.

Mustard and Mushroom Gravy

• 1 tsp. salted butter

• 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

• ½ chopped onion

• 2 cups sliced mushrooms

• 3 ¼ cup vegetable or beef stock

• ¾ cup white wine

• 3 chopped cloves garlic

• ¼ cup flour

• 2 Tbsp. sweet miso

• 2 tsp. Dijon mustard

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste

In a skillet, heat butter and oil. Add onion and sauté while stirring for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking while stirring for 6 minutes. In a saucepan, heat the vegetable broth until warm. Meanwhile, in a processor, add the wine, garlic cloves, flour, miso and mustard and process to form a paste. Slowly add a little of the paste at a time to the broth while whisking until all is incorporated. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add a cup of broth mixture to the mushroom and onions in skillet and mix well, scraping sides. Then add the remainder of the broth to the mushroom mixture while stirring, and simmer 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Fresno Frittata

• 2 cups minced onions

• 2 Tbsp. peanut oil

• 2 ears of fresh corn

• 7 oz. drained, diced green chilies

• 7 oz. drained, chopped black olives

• 5 chopped artichoke hearts

• 1 ½ cups shredded Tillamook, other cheese

• 12 cups grated fresh Parmesan cheese

• 1 tsp. hot sauce

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 12 beaten eggs

In a skillet, sauté onions in hot peanut oil until translucent. Set aside. In a bowl, combine corn, cooked onions, chilies, olives, artichoke hearts, cheeses, hot sauce and black pepper. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Stir onion mixture into eggs. Divide evenly into 2 9 x 13 baking dishes. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until well set. Allow to cool 15 minutes. Cut in small wedges. Serve with sour cream and fresh salsa. Makes 2 frittatas that feed 20 people.

Fruit, Nut and Green Salad

• 1 chopped Granny Smith apple

• 1 chopped Red Delicious apple

• 1 chopped Golden Delicious apple

• 1 ½ cups seedless green grapes

• 1 ½ cups seedless red grapes

• 2 chopped celery stalks

• 1 cup chopped nuts

• 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Core and dice the unpeeled apples. Halve the grapes. Chop the celery. In a big bowl, combine all ingredients. Drizzle with dressing.

Ginger Dressing

• 1 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt

• Honey to sweeten

• ¼ cup chopped candied ginger

In a bowl, combine yogurt, honey and candied ginger. Add just enough dressing to salad to coat thoroughly. Chill before serving.

Quinoa Salad with Peppers

• 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• 1 small chopped onion

• 2 chopped cloves garlic

• 2 chopped roasted red peppers

• 1 cup rinsed quinoa

• 2 cups chicken/vegetable broth

• 1 tsp. chopped oregano

• ½ cup fresh, cooked, or canned chickpeas

• ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

• ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette

In a skillet, heat oil. Add onion and sauté 6 minutes until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add roasted red peppers, quinoa, broth and oregano. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in the chickpeas, feta cheese, and vinaigrette.

Apple Cider Poultry

• 1 quartered chicken

• 1 cup apple cider

• ½ cup all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. cinnamon

• 1 tsp. ground ginger

• ¼ tsp. each salt/pepper

• Reserved cider

• 2 Tbsp. brown sugar

• 2 Tbsp. honey

• 1 cored sliced cooking apple

In a baking dish, marinate chicken in cider for 1 hour. Remove the chicken and reserve cider to a bowl. In another bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture. In a shallow baking dish, place chicken or other fowl skin side up. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven. To the reserved cider, add brown sugar, honey and apples. Pour sugar mixture over the chicken. Bake an additional 30 minutes.

Bacon Butter Beans with Onions

• 4 cups fresh butter or lima beans

• 6 slices lean bacon (optional)

• 4 chopped green onions

• 2 minced cloves garlic

• ½ cup chopped fresh parsley

• ½ tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Using fresh beans, shell, wash in cold water and soak overnight. When ready to cook, in a pot, bring beans to a boil and then reduced heat until slowly simmering. After 1½ hours, test bean for softness. Cook additional 15 minutes and test again. Total cooking time should be around 2 hours. If you use frozen beans, cook according to package directions. In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towel. Reserve drippings. In the drippings, cook green onions and garlic until tender while stirring. Add beans, parsley, salt, pepper and vinegar. Cook until heated through. Crumble bacon and sprinkle over top when serving. You can prepare other beans this way.

Encrusted Chicken with Ginger-Fruit Chutney

• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 cup whole milk

• Pecan Mix

• Extra virgin olive oil

Pecan Mix

• 1 cup finely chopped pecans

• ½ cup fine bread crumbs

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• ½ tsp. cinnamon

• ½ tsp. sugar

Cover chicken with plastic wrap and tenderize with meat mallet. In a bowl, combine beaten eggs with milk to make an egg wash. Coat both sides of chicken with egg wash. For the nutty mix, in a bowl, combine pecans, bread crumbs, pepper, cinnamon and sugar and mix well. Evenly coat the chicken in the nut mix. In a skillet, heat olive oil, and on medium-high heat, sauté breasts for 5 minutes per side. On a sheet pan, place the chicken, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Serve the chicken over the ginger and fruit chutney.

Gingered Fruit Chutney

• 1-inch square finely peeled, chopped fresh ginger

• 3 cored, diced large, crisp apples

• 1 cup golden raisins

• ½ cup apple cider vinegar

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 cup water

In a saucepan, combine ginger, apples, raisins, vinegar, sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes while occasionally stirring until softened and thickened. Store in refrigerator.

Black Bean Burritos with Sweet Potatoes

• 3 baked, large sweet potatoes

• Extra virgin olive oil

• ½ chopped onion

• ½ red or green bell pepper

• 2 minced cloves garlic

• 2 cups cooked black beans

• ½ juiced lime

• Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

• 1 package soft corn tortillas

• Homemade or jar salsa

• Shredded jack or cheddar cheese

• Greek yogurt or sour cream

• Cilantro

For potatoes, bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 1½ hours or until soft. Allow to cool. In a skillet, heat olive oil, and sauté onion and bell pepper for 5 minutes until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. To a large bowl add scooped-out and mashed sweet potatoes, black beans, and sautéed onion, pepper and garlic. Salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in lime juice. Spoon mixture into tortillas and fold around the mixture. Place side by side snugly in a baking dish. Spread salsa over each burrito and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Dollop each with sour cream or Greek yogurt and cilantro, for garnish. You can also use other beans, corn, brown rice, and meat of your choice, if desired.

Mixed Kale Salad with Squash

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• 1 3½ pound peeled, diced butternut squash

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• ½ cup chopped choice nuts

• 1½ cups whole milk yogurt

• 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 Tbsp. minced mild chile pepper

• 2 minced cloves garlic

• 1 tsp. sweet paprika

• 15 oz. baby kale

• 1 thinly sliced red onion

• 6 oz. crumbled blue cheese

Heat oil on a baking sheet in a preheated 425-degree oven. Toss squash and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes while occasionally stirring until tender. Remove from oven and cool. On another baking sheet, toss nuts and toast for 7 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool. For the dressing, in a mixer bowl, whisk yogurt, lemon juice, chile, garlic and paprika together. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss kale with just enough of the dressing to coat. Fold in the squash, red onion and blue cheese. Pass additional dressing at the table.

Maple Salmon with Pecans

• 3-4-pound side of salmon

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• ¾ cup pure maple syrup

• 2 Tbsp. melted salted butter

• 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

• ½ cup chopped pecans

Prepare salmon by placing it skin-side down on a baking sheet. Season adequately with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine maple syrup, melted butter and mustard. Drizzle mixture evenly over the salmon. Evenly sprinkle chopped pecans over the salmon and press so the nuts will adhere. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 40 minutes or until done.

Roasted Garlic and Cheese Tart

• 2 Tbsp. peanut oil

• 6 large cloves garlic

• ½ pound softened cream cheese

• ½ pound ricotta cheese

• 1 ½ Tbsp. sweet hot mustard

• 1 ½ Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

• 1 ½ Tbsp. minced shallots

• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 prebaked 9-inch pie/tart shell

• 2 Tbsp. toasted almonds, other nuts

In an oven-safe dish, heat oil in a 300-degree preheated oven. Toss garlic cloves in the oil and roast in preheated 300-degree for 40 minutes or until garlic is soft. Allow to cool. In a processor, add the garlic cloves and oil and pulse. Add cream cheese, ricotta, sweet mustard, chives and shallots. Puree until well-blended and smooth. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add to the cheese puree and blend until smooth. Pour into a prebaked pastry shell and evenly sprinkle toasted almonds over the top. To toast almonds, place on a baking sheet and bake in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then chop. Bake the pie in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25 minutes or until golden and center is firm. Cool on a rack. Serve at room temp.