Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Calorie Density

Nutrition Data (http://nutritiondata.self.com) provides nutrition label data for every food, including per portion calories and weight. Calorie density is calculated as calories divided by weight. Notice that the result calorie density is independent of potion size.

- Calorie Density = Weight / Calories

Because portions are typically weighed in metric grams, convert to pounds (454 grams = 1 pound.) This formula can be plugged into a spreadsheet table. As an example, compare raw to cooked broccoli. Notice calorie density is about the same whether raw or cooked.

- Broccoli, raw (calorie density) = 31 calories / 1 cup chopped (91 g) = (454 grams per pound) 31 calories / 91 grams = 155 calories per pound
- Broccoli, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt = 98 calories / 1 stalk (280 g) = (454 grams per pound) 98 calories / 280 grams = 159 calories per pound

My rule of thumb of vegetables is 200 calories per pound. Some are more; most are actually less.

My rule of thumb for starches is 500 calories per pound. Some are more; some are less.
My rule of thumb for fruits is 200 calories per pound. Most are actually more; some are less.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Favorites

These are my go-to recipes I make by habit from memory.

- Split Pea Potato Soup
- Black Bean Soup
- Minestrone Soup
Spicy Carrot Soup
- Butternut Squash Soup
Beat Potato Soup
- Dal Soups

- Cole Slaw (Cabbage Salad)
- Tomato and Cucumber Salad
- Cucumber Salad
Lemon Rice
- Mango Rice

- Spud Burger
- Veggie Burger
- Rice and Beans Wrap
Pita Pizza
- Spaghetti and Spicy Red Cabbage Sauce
- Spaghetti and Marinara Sauce
- Potato Dumplings
- Brown Rice

- Hummus
- Salsa
- Sauerkraut
- Marinara Sauce
- Spicy Red Cabbage Sauce

- Simple Fruit
- Oatmeal and Fruit
- Microwave Potato Chips
- Baked Tortilla Chips

- Citrus Infusion

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cucumber Salad

My Czech grandmother used to make cucumber salad. She soaked the cucumber slices in white vinegar, while I prefer lemon/lime and rice vinegar, and she used sugar, which of course I don't.

1 cucumber, sliced paper thin.
1/4 onion, sliced thin
sprig fresh dill, chopped fine (optional)
1 tbsp lemon/lime juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt

Prep: Peel the cucumber and slice paper thin. My grandmother would score the outside with a fork to make a pattern before cutting. Some recipes remove the center seeds, which I think wasteful.
Chill: Mix and let the vinegars and any seasonings soak with the cucumber and onion, best 1+ hours refrigerated. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marinara Sauce

The Italian name marinara refers to Italian sailors, who brought the tomato back from America. In those days, common sailors were of necessity mostly vegetarian, since plant based provisions were cheap and stored well. If a ship did keep animals onboard, they were only for the officers table. Marinara sauce was a meatless sauce.

Marinara sauce is a tomato sauce. While tomato is the main vegetable, flavor comes from base and thickening starch comes from Italian zucchini squash. Seasoning comes from garlic, bay, oregano, marjoram and basil. With the main tomato flavor, a base is really optional. I think it adds complexity. Don’t over do onion or bell pepper.

1/2 onion, chopped (option)
1 celery, chopped (option)
1/2 red bell pepper (option)
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp marjoram
fresh basil (optional)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1 can tomatoes
2 green zucchini squash or yellow squash (optional)
1 can tomato paste (optional)

Brown onion and sweat chopped base vegetables. Add garlic and spices, tomatoes, squash and tomato paste. Simmer low 1-2 hours. Best to cook very slowly.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Plate 2

1. Food Groups
2. Dishes
3. Meals

Some work is required for every meal, in preparation and cleanup. This keeps most everyday meals simple. Most meals are just one or a couple of dishes. And most dishes are just a couple of food groups. It is unlikely that any plate will contain all the food groups, except feasts and holidays, like buffet and restaurant meals.

In the daily meal cycle of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, there is opportunity for either simplicity or variety of food groups, and a simplicity or variety of dishes, including both raw and cooked preparations.

My plate typically is 1 pound of 50% starch and 50% either fruit or veggies, for 350 calories. (Plate = 1 lb; 50% starch and 50% fruit or veggie; 350 calories.)

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack total 4 pounds, for total 1400 calories. (B+L+D+S = 4 lb; 1400 calories.)

Food Groups
Foods are grouped into categories of healthy plants and tolerated animals. These are whole foods. Plant foods are sorted by light, moderate and heavy energy density. This is the amount of calories of energy per pound of food. Moderate foods provide just the right amount of energy for their weight, while light and heavy foods need to be balanced against each other. Animal foods are only mentioned for completeness.

1. Fruit (Light, 200 calories per pound)
2. Veggies (Light, 200 calories per pound)
3. Starches (Moderate, 500 calories per pound)
4. Bakery (Heavy, 1000-1800 calories per pound)
5. Nuts & Seeds (Heavy, 2000-4000 calories per pound)
Animals (Tolerated)
6. Meat, Fish
7. Dairy

- Fruit has abundant fiber and water, and low sugar-based energy density. Fruits include apples, bananas and oranges.
- Green and yellow veggies have abundant fiber and water, and low starch-based energy density.  Veggies include onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Starches have abundant starch and less fiber and water than green and yellow veggies, and moderate starch-based energy density. Soaked and cooked grains have moderate energy density, despite high energy density if dry. Starches include rice, wheat, corn, potato and sweet potato.
- Bakery is dried foods, and high starch-based energy density. Bakery includes breads, crackers, rice cakes and popcorn.
- Animal foods have no fiber or starch, and high fat and protein-based energy density. Dairy also has high sugar-based energy density.

Dishes are the heart of meal planning. The major dish categories uses a common method of preparation, whether raw, sauteed, simmered, or baked. Within a category each recipe records a unique combination of ingredients and preparation.
1. Salad (200)
2. Sauce (200)
3. Soup (350)
4. Stew (350)
5. Combo (350)
6. Starch (500)
7. Bakery (1000)

A typical combination is 50% starch with 50% either veggies or fruit. For example, oatmeal and fruit soaked in water is roughly 50% starch and 50% fruit.

- My soups are 50% veggies and 50% starch. For example, split pea soup is roughly 50% onion, carrot, celery and 50% pea and potato.
- My stews are 50% veggies and 50% starch. For example, cauliflower potato curry is roughly 50% onion tomato and cauliflower and 50% potato.
- My plate typically is 1 pound of 50% starch and 50% either veggies or fruit, for 350 calories. (Plate = 1 lb; 50% starch and 50% veggie or fruit; 350 calories.)

Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner - Snack

B: Rolled Oats Apple and Banana Soaked with Water
Note this is essentially a raw grain fruit salad. Starch is 500 calories per pound, and fruit is 200 calories per pound, so breakfast averages 350 calories per pound.

L: Cucumber Tomato Green Onion Tangerine Salad with Lime Rice Vinegar Dressing
L: Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup
Note salad is raw veggies, not lettuce. Salad is 200 calories per pound.
Soup is veggies at 200 calories per pound and starch at 500 calories per pound, for average of 350 calories per pound. Subtoal for lunch is 275 calories per pound.

D: Onion Cabbage Grape Sauce
D: Potato Oat Dumplings
Sauce is 200 calories per pound. Starch is 500 calories per pound. Subtotal for dinner is 350 calories per pound.

Total is only 1000 calories. A couple of snacks, either fruit or microwaved potato chips, brings my daily total closer to 1500 calories. Or inclusion of some baked goods.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Plate

This is how I plan my meals. I think of dishes.

Soup and salad get prepared for lunch. Leftovers carry forward to dinner. Sauce/Stew and main get prepared for dinner. Cooking is spaced out, and dinner has four dishes.

This is also the order dishes are served at Dr. McDougall’s 10-Day Program. Starting with less calorie dense dishes: salads and soups, ending with more calorie dense dishes: sauces/stews and staple starches.

- Salad (raw): typically green & yellow vegetables, uncooked, at 100-300 calories per pound. Example: cucumber, tomato and onion.
- Soup: typically starches with green & yellow vegetables, slow cooked, at 500 calories per pound and 100-300 calories per pound. Example: onions, green peas and potato.
- Sauce/Stew: typically starch with green & yellow vegetables, slow cooked, at 500 calories per pound and 100-300 calories per pound. Example: marinara sauce (onions, squash, tomatoes).
- Main: typically a staple starch, at 500 calories per pound. Example: potato dumplings (potato), brown rice (rice).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Black Bean Soup

Staple soup common in Central America and Mexico. Especially good with fresh cilantro. Can also use or mix with red or pinto beans. Serve with rice and beans. Use a spice grinder (spare coffee grinder) to grind whole spices and chili peppers. And use a stick blender to blend soup in the pan.

1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery
1/2 red pepper, chopped (or paprika)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 tsp oragano
1 bay leaf
1 New Mexico dried chili pepper, ground
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper (6 peppercorns)
1 plum tomato, chopped
2 cups black beans (separate and blend 1/2 of beans) reduce?
1 cups water (or veggie stock, or even chicken stock)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro

In pot, brown chopped onions, 5 min.
Using spice grinder, measure and grind whole cumin seed, bay leaf, oregano and chili pepper pod.
To pot with brown onions, add and celery, red pepper, tomato, garlic and spices, and saute additional 5 minutes.
Add black beans, can juices, and water. Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer, 20 min.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Use stick blender to partially blend, so that soup is partially creamy and still has some whole beans and chopped vegetables.

Soups Table

Summary of all my soup recipes, for cooking with the soup method. Don't follow recipes, let them guide you.

White Bean
onion, carrot, celery
garlic, thyme, bay
tomato, navy bean, stock
balsamic vinegar, parsley
onion, carrot
tarragon, orange

onion, carrot
garlic, bay, oregano, basil
tomato, zucchini, cabbage, shells, white beans, stock
balsamic vinegar, parsley
Corn Chowder
onion, pepper
corn, stock
Split Pea
onion, carrot, celery
garlic, bay, thyme, parsley
split peas, stock
lemon juice, parsley
Seven Bean
onion, carrot, celery, pepper
garlic, bay, thyme, chili, oregano, basil
tomato, beans, stock
balsamic vinegar, cilantro
French Onion
white wine, stock
Barley Mushroom
onion, celery, carrot
mushroom, barley, stock
Beet Potato
onion, celery
garlic, bay, thyme
beet, potato, stock
lemon juice, parsley
Butternut Squash
onion, carrot
garlic, ginger, cinnamon
butternut squash, stock
lemon juice
Black Bean
onion, celery, pepper
garlic, chili, bay, oregano, cumin
tomato, black beans, stock

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vegetable Base

Also called Soup Greens, Aromatic Vegetables or Trinity.) The base is the large volume of soup greens (onions, celery, carrot, tomato, bell pepper,) cut into small pieces, slowly steamed and simmered 15-30 min.
The base keeps the solids and evaporates the liquid, concentrating the flavors. This is the opposite of stock, which keeps the liquid and wastes the solids.

- India: onion, tomato
- France: onion, carrot, celery (mirepoix)
- Italy: onion, tomato (soffritto)
- Spain: onion, tomato (sofrito)
- American Cajun: onion, celery, bell pepper (holy trinity)
A base is often associated with smaller amount of seasonings (garlic, ginger, thyme, parsley,) to make a signature taste.

Small pieces are simmered in a covered saucepan in their own moisture and steam, gradually passing through bright and firm, then becoming dull and wilted as fiber breaks down. Onions become translucent. Avoid burning by using a low heat, occasionally stir, and adding a splash of stock or water.
Small pieces are dry roasted in an uncovered saucepan, as their outsides dry out, quickly passing through golden, then brown, as sugars cook. This brings out sweetness and flavor. Avoid burning by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon, and adding a splash of stock or water.
Deglazing uses a splash of stock or water on a hot saucepan, which rapidly steams, to lift and mix the browned pieces. Use hot stock or water from a saucepan on the stove.
Tomatoes, which contains lots of tomato juice, can be used both as base (small amounts) and liquid (larger amounts.) I’ll often deglaze onions with tomatoes. I’ll reserve most of my tomatoes, especially canned tomatoes in juice, until after my base vegetables have browned and sweated.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is made from ends, peels and scraps. Stock is left unseasoned. Some stock recipes use whole or sliced vegetables and discard the solids. This is wasteful. I prefer to use chopped vegetables as my vegetable base, and fill a saucepan with the scraps, and the scraps make my stock. When the stock liquid is poured off, the solids become compost or are discarded. With this method, my stock mirrors my base.

- onion ends and peels (Red onions make red stock. Yellow onions make golden stock.)
- celery leaves and tops
- carrot peels and tops
- sweet pepper stems, ribs and seeds
- potato peels
- cabbage hearts and outer leaves
- garlic skins
- herb stems (parsley, cilantro, etc.)

To make a flavorful vegetable stock it is necessary to use lots of vegetables--fill your pot! Be careful of chilis and citrus peels (lemon, lime), and use sparingly if at all.

I started cooking with packaged stocks. While I cooked with packaged stocks, I was never satisfied with my soups. To me, packaged stock almost never match my cooking, and taste muddy. For example, Asian soups need different base and spice than European soups. Italian minestrone needs a different stock than Hungarian goulash.
Never add water. Always add stock.


Seasoning uses number of herbs and spices, selected from a larger palette. My grandmother often cooked with only salt, pepper and parsley. Almost all seasoning includes salt and pepper. In place of pepper other pungent spice like cumin may be used.

India: ginger, garlic
France: thyme
Italy: garlic, olives, basil
Spain: garlic, olives, oregano
Use the simplest combination that works. Fewer spices is better than more.

Tablespoons for Herbs
Try 1 tbsp of big herbs like garlic and ginger (1 clove garlic or 1/2 inch ginger), lemon juice, fresh chopped parsley or cilantro, etc.

Teaspoons for Spices
Try 1 tsp of dry vegetable powders: paprika, chili
Try 1/4 tsp of spices: cumin, coriander, thyme
Try 1/8 tsp of strong spices: turmeric, chili, salt, pepper

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Potato Dumplings

My grandmother served potato dumplings and sauerkraut on holidays. She made big round dumplings, and the dumplings leftovers always quickly disappeared. My favorite way to serve potatoes, especially with soups. Dumplings can also be stuffed with sauerkraut or with dried fruits like plums or apricots. I prefer to use oats over wheat, because Czech dumpling flour is traditionally coarse, and oats make white dumplings, while whole wheat flour colors the dumplings brown.

- 3 medium potatoes, baked and cool, skinned and riced
- 1 cup oatmeal, ground coarse
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup water

Prep: Bake potatoes in microwave (high, 10 min) or oven (350F, 40 min). Allow to cool, then skin and discard skins. With food processor, course grind oatmeal, and mix salt.
Mix Dough: Into mixing bowl, rice potatoes. With fork, mix together potatoes and oats. Splash water and continue to mix until moisture is distributed into dough. Form dough into balls.
Steam: Steaming is most gentle way to cook dumplings, which keeps them from falling apart, and allows dumplings to absorb moisture if needed. Microwave heats quickly and evenly. Place dumpling dough onto plate, with 1/8 cup water to make steam, under plate cover to retain steam. Then cook in microwave on high, covered, 10 min.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Breakfast Potatoes

This makes potatoes that are brown and crispy and coated with seasonings. Cut potatoes use shake and bake method, to coat with seasoning and make potatoes dry and crispy. Mixed with pan roasted vegetables: onion, pepper, garlic and tomato.

4 white potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
1/8 tsp cumin, ground
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, ground
1 tsp paprka

1/2 red onion, chopped
1 green sweet pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper (wax pepper), chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tomato, chopped
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Prep: Peel and chop vegetables. Grind spices. In plastic bag, mix potato seasonings with potatoes until coated.
Bake: Preheat oven 350 F. Bake potatoes 350F on non-stick sheet until soft and done, 45 min, then check and contine bake 450 F until crispy and brown 15 min.
Pan Roast: In saucepan, brown onions, 10 min. Add peppers and continue sweat, 10 min.
Simmer: Add tomato and spices and simmer 10 min.
Finish: Mix fresh cilantro and baked potatoes, and serve.

Beet Potato Soup

Beet and Potato Soup, full of winter root chunks, is a hearty lunch soup. Some Borscht strains the solids into broth. I prefer a more hearty, rustic and frugal soup that keeps the solids. Beets were a primary root vegetable of Eastern and Central European, preceeding the potato. Polish Christmas Eve feast serves vegetarian Borscht with mushroom or sauerkraut-filled dumplings. Good with dumplings and sauerkraut.

1 onion
2 celery (optional)
1 garlic
2 bay leaf
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (6-12 peppercorns)
3 beets, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
lemon juice or vinegar (sour)
1 tbsp fresh parsley

Prep: Chop vegetables. In sauce pan collect tops, skins, peels and other leavings, including beet stems and leaves, and potato peels. Simmer in just enough water to cover.
Roast: In saucepan, brown onions, 10 min. Add and sweat celery, 5 min.
Simmer: Add spices, chunks of roots, and stock to cover, and simmer 30 min.
Finish: Add lemon juice and fresh parsley and serve.

Soup Method

Soup is a slow cooked dish, whose main ingredient is a liquid stock. Soups are simple recipes with common ingredients, but not necessarily fast. The best soups are made from scratch, and cooked slowly. Soups requires some planning and preparation, but are not labor intensive, mostly cooking in the background.


Vary the ingredients in each building block.

The soup method applies equally to Asian, European and American soups and stews. From Indian lentil soups and curries, to European vegetable minestrone soup. With popularity of both dry dishes and fast cooking, soups and stews are becoming a lost art. Can you remember the last good European soup or stew you made?

Soups and stews should have mouth watering flavor. It’s a common mistake to think that flavor comes from spices. Flavor comes from the base and the stock. The base and stocks commonly use aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, tomato and peppers. The spices and finish only enhance the central flavors that come from the base vegetables.

The best way to serve green and yellow vegetables is not as salad, and not as a side dish, but as soups and stews. An amazing amount of green and yellow vegetables and roots effortlessly disappear into soups and stews.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Soup Tips

List of general tips for better soups.
- Roast vegetables in oven.

- Add tomato or tomato juice as liquid.
- Puree or blend 1/2 to thicken.
- Thicken with mashed potatoes (or tomato paste or cornstarch)

- Test seasonings in tasting cup. Ladle 1/2 cup soup into tasting cup, and try adding drops and pinches of liquids and spices. Avoids mistakes in the main soup pot.
- Lemon juice (1 tbsp) perks up or brings out flavors. Also lime juice, basalmic vinegar, white vinegar, or mustard condiment (which has vinegar).
- Salt (Soups with lots of liquid dilute and require lots of salt, so use the minimum amount, and not too much liquid. Add 1/8 tsp increment. Salt base layer during simmer, adjust salt at finish.)
- Try secret sauces (mustard, ketchup, soy, worchestershire, basalmic vinegar, salsa, etc.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Split Pea and Potato Soup

This pea soup is winter comfort food. Cooking fills kitchen with amazing smells. Almost like baking bread. A favorite we make almost once a week. Also freezes well.

1/2 onion
1 carrot
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (4-6 peppercorns)
1 tsp paprika
1 cup green split peas
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 cup stock (ends, peels)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh parsley

In a sauce pan, brown onions, 10 min. Add carrots and garlic, and continue to saute, 5 minutes. Add a splash of stock or water as necessary.
Then add spices, split peas, potatoes, and stock or water, stir and bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover 1 and 1/2 hours.
Allow to partially cool, and with stick blender partially blend together, leaving a few peas and potato chunks for texture.
Finish with lemon juice, salt to taste and garnish with fresh parsley.