And so the holiday hangover has begun.
All that turkey. All that ham. All those cookies. All those pies.
All those hors d’oeuvres that seem like they aren’t going to add a lot to your waistline but actually do.
Now we face a new year, and our scales aren’t very happy with a lot of us – and vice versa. It’s time to do something good for ourselves. Something healthful.
And yet, still something delicious.
Something like, for instance, a salad. And not a wimpy side salad, either. I’m talking about a real salad, one you can eat for dinner.
There is only one problem with meal salads – a lot of them are kind of fattening. A Santa Fe salad (romaine lettuce, slices of chicken, shredded tortilla chips, creamy dressing) will run you 980 calories. A barbecue chicken chopped salad goes for 930.
And if you want to fry the chicken in your salad – such as a honey-crisp chicken salad – we’re talking about 1,370 calories.
So to counter the post-holiday tight-belt blues, I decided to make a salad that would fill and nourish you, yet still be good for you. So I looked to shrimp and made a shrimp salad.
Not one with mayonnaise, though. That would sort of defeat the purpose of the whole exercise. The shrimp salad I made is actually more of a marinated shrimp dish, but I put it on lettuce, which makes it officially a salad. It doesn’t take much time to prepare, especially if you buy the shrimp already peeled, which I didn’t, but it has a particularly full and pleasing taste.
You can eat it immediately after cooking it, while it’s still nice and warm, but I kept mine in the marinade overnight so the shrimp were chilled, and also to allow them to soak up even more of the flavor.
I’ll admit I chose the next dish, Colombian Shredded Chicken, because the calorie count in the book I found it in was so low. What was amazing when I made it was how much taste it could pack into so few calories.
But when you think about it, it is not surprising. This dish makes the most out of an assortment of aromatics: onion, garlic, scallions and a red bell pepper, plus fragrant paprika mixed with a small amount of oil to saute them in.
The meat is chicken, and the recipe substitutes the traditional Colombian dark meat for a less fatty, less caloric chicken breast. It benefits tremendously from just a splash of red wine vinegar, too, to provide a faint acidic counterpoint to the oil and paprika.
For a healthful vegetable, I made french fries – but only sort of. I cut thin slices of potato and then “bake-fried” them.
“Bake-frying” gives you the taste of frying, but the healthful benefits of baking. You give the slices of potato a very light coating of olive oil and then bake them until they are soft and delicious.
The potato alone is good enough, but what makes this dish really shine is the combination of flavorings that you toss the potatoes in before baking. Salt, obviously, but also garlic, black pepper, paprika and cumin.
The cumin may seem unlikely, but this is originally a Central American dish, and that means cumin. It is certainly a welcome addition to the combination of flavors. Your family and friends are sure to applaud you, and they don’t even have to know how low in calories the slices are.
The last healthful dish I made, Cardamom Beef with Caramelized Onions, has its origins in Beef Stroganoff. This version, though, substitutes nonfat yogurt for sour cream, which is fine as far as it goes.
But this dish goes much farther than that, because it isn’t just based on Beef Stroganoff, it is also based on a cognac-cream sauce. This is a classic sauce for beef, though it also works for pork tenderloin, combining cream (or in this case, the nonfat yogurt), cognac and Dijon mustard. It is a combination that is warm and soothing and very elegant.
But it only works with tender meat that can be cooked quickly. Ordinarily I would encourage experimenting with recipes, but if you can’t find tenderloin, sirloin or New York strip, don’t make this dish until you can get it.
There are a lot of other things out there you can eat that are good for you.