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Week of March 29, 2009

Making a Bouquet Garni

A bouquet garni is a neatly tied bundle of parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. It can add a delicate herb flavor to stocks and delicious sauces. Usually it is made by tying together herbs with kitchen twin.

Or you may enclosed it in a piece of cheesecloth.

Another way is wrap it in an outer leek leaf and tie with twine.

2 outer green leek leaves
15 flat-leaf parsley stems
2 fresh thyme stems or sprigs
2 dried bay leaves

1. Trim the ends off the leek leaves to make two 7"-long pieces. Place parsley, thyme, and bay leaves in between the leek leaves.

2. Using an 18"-long piece of kitchen twine, wrap tightly to form a packet.

3. Trim excess twine; add to sauce or stock.

Week of March 22, 2009

Taking The Bitter Out Of Eggplant

In stews and purées, eggplant's bitterness usually does not pose a problem. But using a cooking method like sautéing or grilling concentrates its bitter character. Here are two methods for getting the bitter taste out of eggplant:

SALTING: Slice the eggplant, then sprinkle salt (coarse salt is best because less is absorbed) onto one side. Leave it for 30 minutes, to allow the solanine (a chemical found in the flesh) to leach out, and brush off with a damp cloth.

CHILLING: Arrange eggplant slices on a plate and put it in the freezer for about 4 hours. When the slices thaw, press out a lot of the water with the palm of your hand, releasing most of the bitterness. The eggplant will sautée or grill as if it had been salted, though the freezing will make the flesh fall apart a bit more.

Week of March 15, 2009

Grilled or Roasted Peppers

Bell peppers (capsicum) are delicious just as nature makes them. However, once roasted they are the ideal addition to any antipasto, beautiful in a salad, perfect in a pasta and not to mention an amazing base to many beautiful sauces or soups.

On a Gas Stove Top

  1. Place the pepper (capsicum) directly on the flame of your gas stove and turn the flame to high.
  2. Once the side facing the flame is black and blistered turn the pepper around to face another side to the flame.
  3. Continue turning like this until all sides are black.
  4. Remove the pepper from the flame and place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  5. If you are doing more than one pepper you can simultaneously do this process on all burners of your stove.
  6. Allow the pepper to sweat in the bowl covered with plastic, approx 1 hour.
  7. Once cool to the touch, remove the pepper from the bowl and peel off all the blackened skin under running water.
  8. Remove and discard the seeds.
  9. Use flesh as desired.

On the Barbecue

  1. If you don’t have a gas stove, the pepper (capsicum) can be charred on a barbecue.
  2. Simply turn your barbecue to high and allow it to heat up.
  3. Place the capsicum on the grill part of the barbecue and cook until black on one side.
  4. Turn the capsicum and continue this process until all sides are black.
  5. Remove the pepper from the barbecue grill and place them in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  6. Allow the pepper to sweat in the bowl covered with plastic, approx 1 hour.
  7. Once cool to the touch, remove the pepper from the bowl and peel off all the blackened skin under running water.
  8. Remove and discard the seeds.
  9. Use flesh as desired.
  10. The process on the barbecue will take a little longer than on the stove.

In the Oven

  1. If you have neither a gas stove nor a barbecue, the pepper (capsicum) can be blistered in the oven.
  2. Preheat your oven up to 220 (430 fahrenheit).
  3. Place the pepper in an ovenproof dish or tray and coat with vegetable oil.
  4. Place the tray in the oven.
  5. Turn pepper every 10-15 minutes or until starting to blacken and blister.
  6. Once the peppers are black all over remove the tray from the oven and place them in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  7. Allow the pepper to sweat in the bowl covered with plastic, approx 1 hour.
  8. Once cool to the touch, remove the pepper from the bowl and peel off all the blackened skin under running water.
  9. Remove and discard the seeds.
  10. Use flesh as desired.

Week of March 8, 2009

How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

Preparing the Artichoke

1. If the artichokes have little thorns on the end of the leaves, take a kitchen scissors and cut of the thorned tips of all of the leaves. This step is mostly for aesthetics as the thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke.

2. Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke.

3. Pull off any smaller leaves towards the base and on the stem.

4. Cut excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems tend to be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. Alternatively you can cut off the stems and peel the outside layers, which is more fibrous and bitter and cook the stems along with the artichokes.

5. Rinse the artichokes in running cold water.

6. In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket. Add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Note: artichokes can also be cooked in a pressure cooker (about 15-20 minutes cooking time). Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is, the larger, the longer it takes to cook.

How to Eat an Artichoke
Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot, but I think they are much better hot. They are usually served with a dip.
My favorite is low fat mayo (I use Hellmann's®®) with a little bit of balsamic vinegar mixed in.

1. Pull off outer petals, one at a time.

2. Dip white fleshy end in melted butter or sauce. Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.
Continue until all of the petals are removed.

3. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the "choke") covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat.


Week of March 1, 2009

Brining Poultry

The secret to juicy poultry is simple - brine your poultry (chicken or turkey) before grilling or baking!

This is the secret that chefs never tell you about. It's very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware. Brining is like a marinade as it keeps food moist and tender. Brining or salting is a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of meat resulting in a moister product when it is cooked.

How Long To Brine:
It is possible to end up with meat that's too salty for your taste. To avoid this, brine on the low end of the time range on your first attempt. You can always brine longer next time, but there's no way to salvage a piece of meat that's been brined too long.

Type of Poultry
Brining Time
Whole Chicken (4 pounds)
4 to 12 hours
Chicken Pieces
1 to 1 1/2 hours
Whole Turkey
1 to 2 days
Turkey Breast (bone in)
5 to 8 hours
Cornish Game Hens
1 to 2 hours

Refrigeration is absolutely required during brining - The meat and brine solution must be kept below 40 degrees F. at all times.

Here is a basic poultry brine recipe:

3/4 cup coarse kosher salt (do not sub - not all salts are the same)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 gallon cold water
1 tablespoon pepper

A heavy-duty plastic tube, stainless-steel bowl, or resealable plastic bag can work as a brining container, as long as the poultry is fully submerged. Weight with a plate, if necessary, to keep the meat fully covered by the brine.

To determine how much brine you'll need, place the meat to be brined in your chosen container. Add water to cover. Remove the meat and measure the water.

Dissolve salt and sugar in the boiling water. Add it to the cold water; add pepper and stir to combine. Chill brine completely in the refrigerator before adding poultry. Place your poultry in the water and place in the refrigerator for the time required.

Rinse poultry twice after removing it from the brine solution; discard brine. If you are not ready to cook at the end of the brining time, remove and rinse the meat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Do not salt brined meat before cooking. Cook poultry according to your favorite recipe. Do not overcook your brined poultry. Once brined, the poultry cooks faster so be careful and use a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat.

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