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Healthy Meals For Those Post Holiday Blues

California’s gray winter skies play havoc with my mood. When I wake up without sunshine, I tend to feel bleak, low in spirit and energy. My best friend just loves winter rain. She tells me how lovely it is to curl up with a book by a cozy fire with the sound of rain outside. I tell her, “righty-ho for you, miserable for me.”

Winter meals can help lift the spirits with comfort-style food or bright, cheery fruit salad combinations. Today’s recipes were chosen for their mood-lifting characteristics. For example, clementines can be purchased by the crate now in local supermarkets at terrific savings. The bright orange clementine contrasts with the healthy dark green spinach leaves in a pretty salad.

The skin of these tiny mandarin oranges flicks off easily. Clementines were once called “kid-glove oranges” because it was said that a lady could eat the fruit without taking her gloves off.

With intense flavor and color, clementines can be substituted for oranges, so try them in jello salads or even orange cake.

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Comfort foods like chili can be made more healthful by adding beans, reducing portion sizes or making chili a side dish with a big salad as the entree. Today I offer a chili-mac that has a whopping 8 grams of dietary fiber per serving and a good balance between carbs and protein. One serving is only 365 calories so it won’t strain your New Year’s weight loss resolution. The meatless chili is packed with even more fiber and has only 180 calories per serving.

Reducing portions and counting calories will help you take off extra pounds gained over the holidays. Experts recommend exercise as the best recipe for weight loss and disease prevention.

Every expert has a plan for increasing your chances of success with exercise. My recommendation is to find something that you like. Any exercise plan that feels like a chore, something to be put off until later in the day, is not the right one for you. Find the exercise that’s most pleasant and easiest for you and then stick to it, every day.

As much as I love my neighborhood, it’s such a quiet area that I rarely see anyone when I take my greyhound Baby for his walk. Last week I took him with me on a little stroll from my dear Hamlet’s La Cañada Video store down to see Guillermo, my favorite printer at Printefex. All along that busy thoroughfare, people stopped to admire Baby. It cheered both of us immensely. I have decided that we should take our daily walks in areas of Montrose and La Cañada with heavy foot-traffic. Be sure to say “hi” if you see us keeping our own New Year’s exercise resolution.

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Superbowl Chili Mac

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3/4 Ib. lean ground sirloin

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

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1 Tbsp. dried oregano

Salt, to taste

1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes, drained

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 can (15 oz.) pink beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups cooked whole-wheat macaroni (4 oz. dry)

1 cup (2 oz.) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese

* Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, green pepper and garlic until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, cook until it is browned, about 4 minutes.

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* Mix in the chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the spoon. Mix in the cilantro. Simmer 20 minutes, until the chili is moist and the meat is soft. Mix in the beans.

* Just before serving, mix in the pasta. Divide the Chili Mac among six deep bowls, sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

Makes 6 servings.20060105isjdn6ncPhotos and recipes courtesy American Institute for Cancer Research.(LA)

Meatless Chili

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 large onion, chopped

3-6 peeled garlic cloves, as desired, diced

3 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced tomatoes

1 can (4 oz.) diced mild green chiles, drained

1/2 fresh jalapeño chile, finely chopped, with or without seeds, as desired

2-3 Tbsp. chili powder, as desired

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 Tbsp. dried chives

1 large bay leaf 1 can (15-16 oz.) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15-16 oz.) black, white, or chili beans, rinsed and drained

1 seeded green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 seeded red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 package (10 oz.) frozen corn (or canned corn, drained)

1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped semisweet baking chocolate (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Hot sauce, if desired

* Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and gently sauté until onion is translucent and garlic is golden, about 5 minutes.

* Add tomatoes with juices, chiles, chili powder, cumin, chives and bay leaf. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, bell peppers, corn and chocolate (if using).

* Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chili is thick, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in cilantro. Adjust seasonings if needed, adding additional chili powder or hot sauce, if desired. Remove bay leaf before serving.

* If desired, serve along with corn bread and, for toppings, sour cream and cheese.

* Any type of diced canned tomatoes can be used. Canned northern or garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed) can be used in place of red kidney beans.

Makes 9 servings.20060105isjdlhncPhotos and recipes courtesy American Institute for Cancer Research.(LA)

* Write Lynn Duvall at boblynn@ix.net.com or in care of the Valley Sun.Photos and recipes courtesy American Institute for Cancer Research.


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