Thursday, December 30, 2010

Baked Tortilla Chips

Heat your oven to 400F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut several 8" tortillas (flour or corn) into pie-shaped wedges. Lay the wedges in a single layer on the baking sheet. Spray them generously with olive oil cooking spray. Sprinkle them with ground cumin, paprika, and onion salt. Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.

Note: you can use chili powder instead of cumin and paprika.

Nina's Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

My friend Nina claims that Mexicans usually eat this dish with lots of jalapeno after a night of drinking, because they say it helps with the hangover. Nina's recipe didn't provide much information about the quantities of the ingredients - probably because it's the kind of dish she just throws together. Here's how I made it:

1 pound cooked, shelled & deveined shrimp
1 15-ounce bottle tomato ketchup (I used Heinz Hot & Spicy)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon or lime zest (my addition to the recipe)
as many chopped jalapenos as you feel you can handle

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill for 3 hours so the flavors can develop.

Eat with tortilla chips or crackers.


White Bean Tapenade

1 can (15.5 ounces) white beans (great northern, cannelini, or garbanzo work well), rinsed
and drained
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup whole, pitted Kalamata or other black olives
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and whiz until smooth. If the mixture seems too thick to spread easily, add a tablespoon or more of water. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Serve as a dip with raw veggies, or as a spread with crackers, pita crisps, or pita bread.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Bandster's Pantry

I firmly believe that you don't need a lot of sugar, salt, and artificial flavorings to make your food taste good. What you do need is a good pantry. If you already have some basics on hand, you'll be more likely to experiment with new seasonings and new combinations when it's time to prepare a meal.

Here's what's in my bandster pantry. If you're not an experienced cook, this will seem like a gargantuan list, so I've highlighted the items that I absolutely MUST have on hand.

SPICES & HERBS - salt (regular & kosher), black pepper, cayenne pepper, Italian herb blend, Mrs. Dash (many flavors), Molly McButter, garlic salt, onion salt, onion power, garlic powder, celery salt, ground mustard, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground cumin, ground coriander, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaves, rosemary, rubbed sage, thyme, basil, oregano, tarragon, dill, vanilla extract, almond extract, curry powder, chili powder, paprika, Chinese five-spice powder, & True Lemon & True Lime (packets or shaker).

BAKING - baking soda, baking powder, flours (whole wheat, white, soy, almond), cornmeal, cornstarch.

SWEETS - SF gelatin & pudding mixes, SF chocolate and caramel sauce, SF popsicles or fruit bars, Cool Whip Free, SF or NSA jams.

SWEETENERS - honey, molasses, agave, Truvia, Splenda, Splenda baking blend, Splenda brown sugar blend, granulated sugar, light brown sugar.

SEASONINGS - soy sauce, Braggs liquid aminos, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, mustard (Dijon, yellow, horseradish, honey), Wishbone Salad Spritzers, hot chili sauce, minced ginger root (in jars), minced garlic (in jars), cooking wine (white, red, sherry, rice), vinegar (rice wine, white wine, red wine, balsamic, cider, white), ketchup, salsa, pesto, horseradish, miso, reduced fat bacon bits.

PICKLES - pickles, chutney, olives (black & green), capers, roasted red peppers, hot peppers.

BEVERAGES - SF drink mix (I like Crystal Light), SF flavored syrups, coffee, tea, herbal tea, SF hot cocoa mix, SF spiced apple cider mix, flavored water (I like SoBe).

FRUITS - dried fruit (cherries, raisins, craisins, etc.), fresh fruit in season, frozen fruit (berries, mango, peaches, etc.), NSA applesauce, SF pie filling, lemon juice, lime juice, fresh lemons & limes.

SNACKS - trail mix, whole grain crackers (like Ak Mak or Wasa), popcorn, nuts, jerky.

CEREALS & GRAINS - Quaker Weight Control instant oatmeal, granola or fiber bars, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, barley, seasoned & plain dried breadcrumbs, Panko, pasta & noodles (for my husband).

FATS - olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray, cooking spray (regular, butter, olive oil), olive oil mayo, butter, tahini (sesame paste), peanut butter, almond butter, PB2 powder (regular & chocolate).

DAIRY & EGGS - light sour cream, 2% cottage cheese, FF plain Greek yogurt, part-skim ricotta cheese, Egg Beaters, eggs, reduced fat cheese (cheddar, blue, feta, Swiss, etc.), light cream cheese, Laughing Cow light cheesees, grated Parmesan cheese.

MEAT/FISH/PROTEIN - reduced fat bacon (I don't like turkey bacon), other meat, fish & seafood, canned fish & meat, turkey sausage, protein powder, protein bars, beans (dried & canned), deli meats, hummus, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, veggy burgers, edamame.

VEGETABLES - fresh veggies in season, frozen veggies (no sauce), canned veggies (tomatoes, artichokes, corn, beans, green chilies), fresh herbs (we grow basil, parsley, dill, cilantro, sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, and mint), veggies to eat raw or in salads (peppers, cucumbers, celery, jicama, mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions, etc.), basics (garlic, onion, carrots, potatoes), fresh ginger root, dried mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, etc.).

SOUPS & BROTHS - chicken, beef, vegetable & onion bouillon and/or broth, Healthy Request soups (I use in cooking sometimes), dry onion soup mix (used in cooking)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Avocado, Mushroom & Artichoke Salad

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon wine vinegar (white or red)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted & cubed
3 medium mushrooms, sliced
2 artichoke hearts, quartered (use drained canned or thawed frozen artichoke hearts)
3 tablespoons roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
3 scallions, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon rind, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and oregano until the dressing is emulsified (thoroughly combined and slightly thickened). Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently (so as not to smash the avocado too much) until all the veggies are coated with dressing.

Refrigerate any leftovers, then remove them from the fridge 30 minutes before serving again (olive oil turns into an unappealing sludge when refrigerated, so letting the salad sit at room temperature for a while gives it a chance to liquefy).

You can give the leftover salad a new twist by adding a protein (like beans, cubes of mozzarella cheese, or canned tuna or salmon) and/or additional veggies (like chopped tomato, chopped bell pepper, chopped jicama, sliced celery, sliced black olives).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bandster on a Bike

Talented cook and successful bandster Tom Bilcze (who has lost 80 pounds thanks to his band), was featured in a local newspaper article this summer about the bicycling group he started to provide great outdoor exercise with other weight loss surgery patients. Tom plans to devote more time to his WLS blog the next few months, with lots of yummy recipes as well as thoughts about weight loss, diet and exercise, so stay tuned.
August 10, 2010
A new group started by bariatric surgery patients at Summa Health System is giving weight a loss a whole new spin. The Akron-Canton Spin Off cyclists meet weekly for a weeknight and a weekend bike ride on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and other Akron-area trails. Although two-thirds of the estimated 40 members have undergone weight loss surgery, the group is open to anyone who wants to lose weight and get fit, said Tom Bilcze, one of the co-founders.
The group combines cycling and support, with members sharing the ups and downs of their weight loss journey. Bilcze, 56, of Mogadore, has lost 80 pounds since undergoing surgery in 2008 through Summa's Bariatric Care Center. Before committing to losing weight, he said, "I was just very sedentary." "I did nothing," he said. "After work, I wasn't much of an active person. The couch was more of an appealing thing."
About a month after his surgery, he made a pledge to get active and began using a treadmill daily. Last summer, he started bike riding ont he Towpath Trail and mentioned his newfound hobby at a support group for other bariatric surgery patients at Summa. He then connected with other weight loss patients, who joined him for rides and began talking about starting a cycling club. With the help of Susan Motts and Christine Domer, Bilcze organized the Spin Off's first official ride in April with about a dozen participants.
A few participants hadn't ridden a bike for a couple decades, he said, but they were still able to go on the 16-mile journey. From the start, the group has had a "no-cyclist-left-behind" policy, Bilcze said. "If you ride with us, you're going to go the speed of whatever the slowest cyclist in the group is," he said. A typical weekday ride is about 8 to 10 miles, while weekend journeys are 20 to 25 miles with a break for a meal. "People surprise themselves," he said. "Bicycling is good aerobic exercise, and it's easy."
More information about the group and a schedule of upcoming rides is available at

Orange Spiced Nuts

A few months ago, I bought a jar of orange marmalade to use in a recipe (that I can't even remember now, and it wasn't blog-worthy). The other day I discovered the half-full jar in the refrigerator door, and a bag of roasted almonds in the pantry, and this is the very tasty result.

1/3 cup orange marmalade (use reduced sugar or no sugar added variety if you prefer)
2 teaspoons paprika (I used 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon of regular paprika)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups shelled, roasted nuts (salted or not, as you prefer)
1/4 c. Splenda brown sugar blend
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (regular table salt is OK)
a couple of shakes of cayenne pepper (to taste)

Heat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.

Place the marmalade in a medium bowl and microwave on high for 45 seconds. Stir in 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin, and the nuts. When the nuts are evenly coated with the marmalade mixture, spread them in a single layer in the prepared pan.

Bake the nuts for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Stir the nuts to break up the mixture, which will be sticky. Combine the Splenda, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle this mixture over the nuts, stirring to combine. Cool competely and store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hot Pineapple

You can hack up a fresh pineapple for this recipe, or use pre-packaged fresh pineapple spears from the supermarket produce section, but canned pineapple works just fine and it's a lot easier. You can omit the chili garlic sauce if serving kids or adults who don't enjoy spicy food.

1 20-oz can pineapple slices in juice
2 tablespoon pineapple juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
1 tablespoon Splenda brown sugar blend
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (or to taste)
1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat your oven's broiler. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Drain the pineapple slices, reserving 2 tablespoons of the juice. Lay the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Combine the pineapple juice, lime juice & zest, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, Splenda, chili garlic sauce, and canola oil in a small bowl. Brush the pineapple slices with some of the juice mixture, turn them over and brush the other side.

Broil the pineapple about 6" from the broiler heating element for2- 3 minutes or until the surface of the pineapple is lightly browned and shiny. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Flip the pineapple slices over and pour the remaining juice mixture over them, brushing to spread it evenly. Broil the pineapple for another 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned and shiny. Remove from the oven.

Serve hot with pork, chicken, fish, seafood or tofu.

4 servings

Kitty's Cauliflower Fried "Rice"

1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 head cauliflower, grated (by hand on or in a food processor)
1/2 c. corn (Kitty uses the baby corn cobs, chopped, but I use frozen corn kernels, thawed & drained)
1/2 c. petite green peas (frozen, thawed & drained)
1/2 c. shredded carrots (pre-shredded is fine)
1/2 c. broccoli florets
4 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 large eggs, beaten, or 1/2 c. Egg Beaters
1/2 lb chicken or shrimp, cooked and cut in bite-size pieces (salad shrimp works well and doesn't have to be cut up; you can also use firm tofucubes or cooked, shelled edamame)

Heat the sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion, stir 1 minute, then add the cauliflower, corn, pease, carrots and broccoli. Stir fry the mixture for 3-4 minutes or until the broccoli is tender but still bright green. Add the chicken, shrimp, tofu or edamame, scallions, and soy sauce, and stir to combine all ingredients. Move the mixture to one side of the skillet. Add the eggs to the open side of the skillet. Cook and stir the eggs until just set, then mix them in with the rest of the ingredients. Serve hot.

3-4 servings

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mediterranean Bulgur & Veggy Salad

Bulgur wheat can usually be found near rice in the supermarket. It's quick and easy to cook and for me, it doesn't have the sticky texture that tends to get stuck in my stoma.

1/2 cup uncooked bulgur wheat
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt & black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons minced red onion
3 scallions, chopped

In a small saucepan, bring the bulgur and chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for one hour or until all the liquid is absorbed. While the bulgur is standing, prepare the veggies.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic, salt & pepper, and basil until emulsified (well combined and slightly thickened). Add the bulgur and veggies to the bowl and toss to coat the ingredients with dressing.

Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate until 15 minutes before serving time. Remove from refrigerator and let stand 15 minutes. Stir before serving.

4 servings

Baked Fish with Olives

I love olives despite the sodium content. They're packed with healthy monounsatured fats, vitamin E, and flavor. If you prefer not to eat the olive coating, scrape it off after the fish is baked, but leave it on during baking so that the flavor can soak into the fish.

1 lb. fillets of firm, white fish (I use catfish)
1/4 c. white wine (or substitute vegetable broth)
1/2 c. roughly chopped olives (try a mix of black and green, but plain old pimento-stuffed green olives work fine)
1/4 c. minced red bell pepper
3 scallions, chopped
zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano ( or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray a 13x9" baking pan with cooking spray. Place the fish fillets in the pan in a single layer.

Combine the wine, olives, bell pepper, scallions, lemon zest & juice, oregano, olive oil, and salt & pepper in a small bowl. Cover the fish fillets with this mixture.

Put the baking pan in the oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

4 servings