Healthy Eating in the New Year

By Randy Graham

Eating healthy means following a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of nutritious foods. It also means getting the number of calories that’s right for you (not eating too much or too little). So, in 2024, why not forget diet fads such as The South Beach Diet, The Scarsdale Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, and The Atkins Diet, and use common sense?

Instead of making spaghetti and meatballs and loads of French bread for dinner, consider making my Braised Tofu Bowl. This recipe is low in calories, low in carbohydrates, and is virtually fat-free. It features grilled tofu slices, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, garlic, ginger, poached eggs, and crushed red pepper flakes in a white miso broth. No frying. No bread. No cheese.

My Guinness Onion Soup recipe includes a wonderful combination of garlic, onions, fresh thyme, lemon juice, and brandy. It is my “riff” on French onion soup, but is infused with Irish goodness, including a wee bit of Guinness Draught in the broth and melted Blarney Castle cheese on top.

The Hearty Bean and Kale Soup recipe is comfort food on a cold winter night. It is full of bold Mediterranean-style flavors and is ready to serve in 30 minutes. My recipe makes a boatload of soup, but what you don’t eat now can be frozen and enjoyed for dinner on another night.

Samosas are made with puff pastry, although the pastry adds less than 10 calories to each serving. My version of Samosas is vegan, and instead of being deep-fried, they are baked. In addition, my recipe boasts a fantastic combination of herbs and spices. Give these bite-sized appetizers a try!

If you are thinking of making something deep-fried for dinner, consider making my Crustless Tomato Quiche recipe instead. It is gluten-free and vegetarian. At first glance, the list of ingredients may look to be heavy with dairy because it includes sour cream, milk, and cheese, but the amounts of dairy per serving are small. And there are no trans fats because there is no crust. Add a chopped salad with a simple oil and vinegar dressing, and this is a complete and healthy dinner.

My recipes are tasty, nutritious, easy to prepare, and are a great way to start the new year for you and your family.

 

Braised Tofu Bowl

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

14-ounce block of firm tofu (cut into 4 lengthwise slices)

1 cup hot water + 5 cups cold water

10 tablespoons white miso paste

2 green onions (sliced)

3 ounces shiitake mushrooms (trimmed)

1 medium carrot (sliced thin)

2 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced thin)

½ teaspoon ground ginger

4 large poached eggs

Crushed red pepper flakes (as a condiment at the table)

Directions: Preheat the grill to high heat (about 550 degrees). Spray or wipe the grill with vegetable oil to keep the tofu from sticking. Remove the tofu from the container and rinse under cold water. Slice in half horizontally. Place slices on paper towels, cover with more towels and put something heavy on top to help absorb excess moisture. I place a cutting board on top with a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes on top of that for weight. Let sit for 20 minutes so towels absorb as much moisture as possible.

Remove tofu slices from towels. Grill tofu for five minutes per side. You should have nice grill marks by now. Remove from grill and cut each slice into quarters. You should have eight square slices of grilled tofu (two for each bowl). Set aside.

Add miso paste to a medium bowl with one cup of hot water. Whisk to mix thoroughly. Set aside. Add green onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, ginger, and tofu to a medium saucepan along with five cups of water. Cook on medium heat for seven minutes. Remove from heat and add miso mixture. Stir to combine.

Spoon soup into four bowls. Add a poached egg to the top of each bowl. Bring bowls to the table along with a dish of crushed red pepper flakes on the side.

Tip: Leave out the eggs for a vegan meal; it is still tasty and satisfying.

 

Guinness Onion Soup

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic (minced)

4 medium yellow onions (peeled and sliced thin)

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (chopped)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons brandy

1 ½ cups Guinness Draught beer

6 cups vegetable stock

1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base

4 slices whole wheat bread (toasted)

7 ounces Kerrygold Blarney Castle cheese (sliced thin)

Directions: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook briefly to release the aroma. Add onions, season with salt, and cook for about five minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden brown.

Add the thyme, lemon juice, brandy, and beer. Reduce the liquid by half, and then add the vegetable stock and bouillon. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes more.

Just prior to serving, preheat the broiler. Transfer soup to four ovenproof onion soup crock bowls or ramekins. Top with toasted bread slices and sliced cheese. Broil until cheese melts and starts to brown slightly (about six minutes). Carefully remove the soup bowls from the oven and serve immediately.

 

Hearty Bean and Kale Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large white onion (diced)

1 medium carrot (peeled and diced)

2 28-ounce cans of fire-roasted tomatoes (diced)

4 cups vegetable broth

2 15-ounce cans of white beans (drained and rinsed)

1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds (crushed – divided)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

2 bunches of winter kale (veins removed – leaves chopped)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat using a large soup pot. Add the onion and carrots and sauté for five minutes or until tender. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, and beans. Bring to a steady simmer, adding one teaspoon of the fennel seeds, oregano, paprika, and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the kale and simmer for three minutes or until the kale is tender. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds and serve while still hot.

Tip: If you aren’t vegan, sprinkle a teaspoon of grated Parmesan cheese on each bowl of soup before serving.

 

Samosa Appetizers

Makes 18 appetizers.

Ingredients:

1 large potato (scrubbed – not peeled yet)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion (chopped fine)

½ small jalapeño pepper (remove seeds – chop fine)

2 teaspoons fresh ginger (grated)

1 clove garlic (minced)

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

1 ½ teaspoons curry powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 plum tomato (seeded and chopped fine)

¼ cup frozen green peas

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped)

¼ cup vegetable stock

1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets (thawed)

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Boil the potato in the skin for eight to ten minutes. It is important not to overcook the potato, or the consistency will be mushy. Drain liquid, wash under cool water, and when the potato is cool to the touch, peel and dice into ¼-inch cubes.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add onion and cook until soft, about three to four minutes, then add jalapeño, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, curry powder, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for about two to three minutes. Stir in the potatoes, plum tomato, peas, cilantro, and vegetable stock. Cook another minute more. Remove from heat and let cool.

On a lightly floured surface, unroll both sheets of dough. Cut each sheet into nine squares, so you have 18 total squares to fill.

Spoon a teaspoon of the potato filling onto the middle of each rectangle and fold up, bringing the four points to each other, then pinch at the seams to form a small pyramid and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Crustless Tomato Quiche

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream

1 small onion (diced)

1 medium zucchini (sliced thin)

10 fresh mushrooms (cleaned and sliced thin)

1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese (grated)

5 medium eggs

¼ cup milk

1 medium tomato (sliced thin)

1 tablespoon butter (melted)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread sour cream on the bottom of a lightly greased pan or baking dish. Sprinkle diced onion over the sour cream, and then layer the zucchini, mushrooms, and cheese on top of that. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over veggie/cheese layers. Top with slices of tomato. Blend butter, garlic powder, and oregano together and pour over the top.

Bake for one hour. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

X