Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Makeover: Pakistani Ground Lamb and Kidney Curry...

...becomes Brussels Sprouts and Potato Curry!

Let me just say that this recipe is delicious, absolutely the best one so far!

The original recipe (hailing from Pakistan) was seeping with calories (561 per serving!), fat (43.6 per serving!), saturated fat (14.6 g per serving!), cholesterol (219 mg per serving!), and sodium (670 mg per serving!)... yes, I know that's a lot of exclamation points. But seriously, this thing is a heart attack waiting to happen.

Why? Well, the original recipe has 6 lamb's kidneys, 1/4 c sunflower oil, and 1.25 lb ground lamb. BUT... the new recipe has no meat, 1 tablespoon canola/sunflower oil, tofu or seitan, and carrots, petite Brussels sprouts, peas, and a sweet potato. Since you're bulking up the recipes with all these vegetables you end up making more too, so that also helps lower the calories.

What are the changes?
  • 140 calories per serving not 561
  • 6.4 g of fat not 43.6 (and this is using the firm tofu, which is higher in fat than the softer varieties)
  • .8 g of saturated fat not 14.6 (saturated fat is high in animal-based foods, including whole fat dairy and butter)
  • 0 cholesterol (exclusively found in animal-based foods)
  • 84 mg of sodium not 670

Of course, because you're adding all those veggies, you're also getting more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants... all the stuff that helps keep us healthy for a longer period of time. For example, you get your entire day's need of vitamin A (high in sweet potato and carrots), and 75% of your vitamin C (high in Brussels sprouts).

Another benefit of cooking vegetarian / vegan (this recipe is vegan) is that it takes a lot less time to cook! The original recipe takes about 50 minutes to prepare, while my version takes about 25.

Brussels Sprouts and Potato Curry

1 tsp ground turmeric
1 T sunflower or canola oil
1 block firm tofu or seitan, cubed
1" ginger, diced as finely as possible
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1" pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1/4" pieces (peel can be on or off)
1 bag frozen petite Brussels sprouts (or 1 lb fresh)
3/4 c peas
1 c water
1 sweet potato, cubed into 1" pieces
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
2 T chopped cilantro, raw

1. Heat the oil in a medium-large sauce pan.
2. Add the ginger and turmeric. Heat for 30 seconds.
3. Add the tofu or seitan. Stir for 1 minute.
4. Add everything except the raw cilantro and peas.
5. Cook for 10 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
6. Add peas and cook for 5 more minutes.
7. Taste the carrots and sweet potatoes to see that they are soft enough. Cook longer if needed.
8. Stir in the cilantro at the very end and enjoy! If you don't like cilantro, you can leave this ingredient out; it's delicious before adding it too.

Enjoy! You can eat this dish as is without any rice or bread. If you need the calories, go ahead and serve it with some basmati rice, or 100% whole grain bread.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wanna run? Or run better?

Is the summer sun inspiring you to get up and get moving? It is for me! I started jogging maybe 10 or so years ago, but about 5 years ago I killed my knees and it just hasn't been the same since. Every time I try to run, a few minutes into it, one or both knees start hurting. It stinks. So, since I am on a mission this summer to get into amazing physical shape (and I want to start doing fun races like the Warrior Dash), I really wanted to start running again. But to get the jogging-induced endorphin buzz without the pain, I figured I needed the perfect kicks. And since my old gym sneakers were stolen this week (at a yoga studio nonetheless!), I had a nice excuse for buying them. Enter: Asics.

Asics has this great technology: Asics Foot ID. It takes about 20 minutes, doesn't cost anything, and is like a fortune teller for your feet - telling you exactly the shape and size of your foot, your gait, and pronation tendencies. Here are the steps:
  • They put your foot in this little machine that measures your foot exactly - telling you the exact length, ball girth, arch height, wide/narrow, etc. It also shows you how straight your heel aligns with your achilles - basically, if you lean to the inside or outside of your ankle when you stand.
  • Then you get on the treadmill and go for a little jog with these special shoes.
  • Next, they play back a video of you jogging, and you see exactly how your foot lands - slow-motion and regular speed. It's AMAZING and really scary! I have such overpronation (almost severe in my left foot, and considerable in my right foot) that it was painful to watch!
  • The Asics Foot ID employee then calculates how you run with the data collected from the X-ray-type-thing and your jog, and determines what sneaker is best for you via the Asics database.
  • The proof is in the pudding. You put on those recommended sneaks (I tried on 2 pairs), and get back on the treadmill... and see a video of the difference. It was amazing how much straighter my foot was falling.
If you're looking to jog, do your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back a favor and get this analysis done to determine the best shoe for you. My first jog in them was amazing... I was completely free of knee pain!

Check out my personal Foot ID! You get to take this home with you... so cool.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Recipe Makeover: Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

...becomes Tofu Asparagus Curry!

The original Chicken Curry recipe hails from Sri Lanka, an island off the south-east coast of India. It was actually not too unhealthy, but I made some changes to make it healthier - less calories, less saturated fat, less sodium, and more vitamins and minerals. To do that I replaced chicken breast with firm tofu, cut the salt, and changed the regular coconut milk (which is so high in saturated fat!) to light coconut milk. And, of course, I piled on the veggies... added a bunch of asparagus and chopped kale. And this dish is vegan, so some chicken out there will love you for cooking this one instead of their version.

Just an FYI - even though I was able to cut out 210 calories and 7 grams of fat, this dish is still high in fat, so just be aware of that when thinking of how it fits into your day's diet. And keep that in mind the next time you order a dish with coconut milk at a restaurant... they are definitely not using the light version!

I'm curious to hear what you think about this recipe, so comment to let me know! Personally, I prefer the Seitan, Broccoli, Sweet Corn Curry from last week, but my boyfriend prefers this one. Check out how much healthier the Tofu Asparagus version is compared to the Chicken Curry!
Per serving, you cut out...
  • 210 calories
  • 7 grams of fat (5 of which are saturated fat)
  • 57.5 mg of cholesterol
  • 626 mg of sodium (yeah, you read that right!)
And you add on some more healthy stuff (percentages are % of how much you should get per day)...
  • ~130 mg more potassium
  • Vitamin A: 228% (yeah kale!)
  • Vitamin C: 77.6% (instead of 14.5%)
  • Calcium: 52% (instead of ~3.5%)
  • Copper: 27% (instead of 9%)
  • Folate: 37% (instead of 6.3%)
  • Iron: 19.7% (instead of 13.4%)
  • Manganese: 67.7% (instead of 24%)
I know you're just dying for the recipe now, right? So, without further ado...

Sri Lankan-inspired Tofu Asparagus Curry

3 Tbsp canola oil (or sunflower oil)
1-in piece of ginger, finely diced
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground garam masala
1 block firm tofu
1 lb asparagus, woody ends discarded, cut into 2" pieces
3 c kale, chopped
3/4 light coconut milk
2 tomatoes, chopped

1. Heat oil in a saucepan.
2. Add ginger and spices.
3. Stir for about 1 minute. (If the spices start to burn add a little water - this happened to me.)
4. Add tofu, asparagus, and kale and cook for 2 minutes. Stir as needed.
5. Add in 1.25 cups of water.
6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.
7. Reduce heat to low and add in coconut milk & tomatoes.
8. Cook for 5 - 10 minutes.
9. Serve with brown rice. Enjoy!

Makes 5 1-cup servings.
197.9 calories, 16.7 g fat, 3.6 g saturated fat, 31.1 mg sodium, 13.1 g carbohydrate, 14 g protein

Questions about the recipe, ingredients, or nutrition in general? Feel free to ask via a comment!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Halt on Chinese Organics

Back in February, I was taken aback when one of my yoga teachers sent me the link to an ABC video (posted on YouTube) that uncovered the reality of the organic frozen produce at Whole Foods that was grown in China. In a nutshell, the Chinese government (via the U.S. Organic Crop Improvement Association) was monitoring their own organic certification and the details were pretty secret. Taking China's history of deception into consideration - think: melamine in baby formula, lead in kids' toys, etc - I, and others, decided that it would be a good idea to avoid the "certified" organic, Grown in China items. Sadly, that means that I haven't been able to get frozen, organic edamame since. Some people thought that they should ban Whole Foods all together, but I didn't really see the necessity in that. I could be biased though; I love Whole Foods.

Why am I sharing all this now? Well, the good news is that this week the USDA decided to ban the Organic Crop Improvement Association from continuing their business in China. This is great news for those of us concerned about the organic standards and our exposure to synthetic chemicals used in industrial agriculture... and hopefully it means I can get organic frozen edamame again! If you want to read more about this, check out the New York Times article, or Marion Nestle's blog posting (an outstanding expert on food politics, and luckily one of my professors at NYU).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Makeover: Lamb & Sweet Corn Curry from North India

...becomes Seitan, Broccoli, and Sweet Corn Curry! The original recipe comes from Rajasthan, an area of North India. Inspired by this recipe, the new one comes from my apartment in Jersey City. :-)

Changes I made:
I made it for my wonderful, supportive boyfriend who is lacto-vegetarian (i.e. only dairy products + plant-based food) and also allergic to soy so I changed the lamb to seitan (wheat gluten). Everything else in the recipe was fine from a vegetarian point of view, but when I read 1/2 cup of ghee or corn oil I found myself gasping. Really? A half a cup? If you're using ghee, that's 1080 kcalories, 120 g of fat, and 72 g of saturated fat. The corn oil gets you down to 960 kcalories, 112 g of fat, and only 16 g of saturated fat, but still... do we really need to use that much? So, I decided to use 2 tablespoons of canola oil. I also didn't see the point in using canned corn, so I opted for frozen (although in hindsight I should have gone with fresh since it's starting to pop up at Whole Foods). I also felt like 1 tsp of salt was enough to bring out the flavors (instead of the 2 tsp they called for) because there are a TON of spices in this thing! - caradmom galore, cumin, cloves, bay leaves, lemon, cilantro, coriander, tumeric. I used nonfat yogurt instead of regular, a little less water (lamb would have to be cooked longer), and took out the onions and garlic. There's nothing wrong with the onion and garlic, we're just not fans of it in this household, so you'll see me doing that a lot.

I have to admit, when I added in the blended Poblano chiles, I thought that i was going to have to dump the finished product in the trash can - but I was wrong! And - check out how it changed per serving (I said it makes 7, which is about a cup)...
Kcalories: 470... 180.5
Fat: 27 g... 5.5 g
Saturated fat (that's the unhealthy one): 7 g... 0.4 g
Protein: 37 g... 14 g
Cholesterol: 106 mg... 1 mg
Sodium: 964 mg... 709 mg (This is more sodium than I would like, so I'd cut the salt in half again.)
You may think it's a bad thing that the protein went down, but actually most people (especially meat-eaters) eat far more protein than is required. Unfortunately, there's less niacin, zinc, iron, and selenium in the new recipe from taking out the lamb. But, because of the added veggies in the new recipe, there is more vitamin A, folate, fiber, and a lot more vitamin C.

What do you look out for in a recipe/meal? Calories? Fat? Sodium? Amount of veggies? Additives?

Seitan, Broccoli, and Sweet Corn Curry


1 whole package seitan (~1 cup), cut into 1-in pieces
4 poblano chiles, stem discarded
2 T canola oil
1.5 t cumin seeds
Seeds in 5 green cardamom pods
Seeds in 4 black cardamom pods
10 cloves
2 bay leaves
2 c water
1 lb frozen sweet corn
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T cilantro, chopped

10 oz plain, nonfat yogurt
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine the ingredients for the seitan coating in a bowl. Add seitan and cover the cubes completely.

2. Heat canola oil in a deep saucepan. Add cumin, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves.
3. After the spices start to snap, crackle and pop, and the seitan and all of the coating. Cook for 5 minutes.
4. Blend the chiles (include some seeds if you want it more spicy) in a blender or food processor. If you want to add onions and garlic to this, feel free.
5. Add the blended chiles to the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add 2 cups water and cook until half of the liquid has evaporated.
7. Add the corn and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
8. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and cilantro.
Serve with some brown basmati rice and enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

International Curry Extravaganza Begins!

Welcome to the first post! About 7 years ago, I realized the incredible power that food has on our bodies. What we eat can determine whether we feel energized or lazy, can cause us to thrive in health or disintegrate from disease, and it can even be a declaration about how we choose to live in this world. For me, it was changing to a vegetarian diet that brought about this discovery. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to help people heal themselves with food and started the graduate program in clinical nutrition at NYU. I love it.

Who loves curries? I do! I do! About 5 years ago, I started cooking from The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar and fell in love with the spices. In ayurveda, the use of spices is one technique to help balance your body and mind. Last semester in Food Science & Technology, my professor Dr. Raghavan loved to talk about the healing aspects of curcumin (a component of the spice tumeric) and gave me the book Curry Cuisine: Fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia by a number of authors. Since a number of the dishes are not vegetarian and not necessarily healthy, I decided to make it my summer mission to use the recipes as inspiration in the creation of new, healthier, vegan/vegetarian ones.

Hope you enjoy! Tomorrow, we begin in North India - changing a Lamb and Sweet Corn Curry recipe to a Seitan, Broccoli and Sweet Corn Curry. Get your tumeric out and let's get going!