each blue stickie is a must-try recipe!

Lest you think that my commitment to healthy living and losing these last few pounds means that I eschew all indulgences and live a spartan food existence, let me point you towards Exhibit A: Real Food Has Curves, by Bruce Weinstein (the chef) and Mark Scarbrough (the writer). This is an excellent primer on selecting, preparing and enjoying a wide range of food. It is also quite funny and down to earth – I wish I lived in their neighborhood so I could finagle my way onto their dinner party invite list! (Actually, what I’m really jealous over is the book club that Mark oversees at his local library.) Basically their approach is that how much we eat is dictated more by what we eat than we think. If we choose high quality, real foods, we’ll enjoy them more and be more satiated than if we eat the junky processed stuff. For quite some time now I have tried to gear my eating more towards whole, natural foods and minimize the processed stuff. I’m quite proud to say that my grocery cart is full before I even leave the produce section of the grocery store, and my trips down the center aisles are minimal. So Bruce and Mark were preaching to the choir in that respect, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading their stuff any less. I also learned quite a bit and as you can see from the photo above, I tagged a bunch of recipes that made me salivate just by reading them. I will definitely be getting my hand on their other books and am quite interested in their newest one, all about goat. (The goat milk corn pudding on the cover looks like ultimate comfort food.)

I hadn’t even finished Real Food Has Curves before I was trying my first recipe, Oven-Fried Fish. We eat fish a couple of times a week, so I’m always up for a new method of preparing it. I paired it with one of our favorite vegetable dishes, sauteed kale with goat cheese:

Oven Fried Fish with Kale & Goat Cheese

Oven Fried Fish with Kale & Goat Cheese

The recipe posted on their website is similar but not quite the same as what’s in the book (the book called for egg whites, not buttermilk, if I recall correctly) but it still formed a flavorful crust on the fish, mimicing a fried batter. But I think we’ve been eating non-battered versions of fish for so long that we found the addition of the crust a bit heavy and unnecessary. So while I’ll use the herbs they suggested for this recipe again (I’d never thought of using paprika with fresh fish before), I think we’ll skip the extra calories from the baked crust. But for those of you who really enjoy fried fish but are trying to watch your waistline, this would be a great substitute!

One of the other foods touted in the book is the use of flavorful oils. I have used olive oil as my mainstay oil for years now, but have never really branched out to try anything else. Prompted by this book, I went to Whole Foods and bought a bottle of walnut oil. Bruce and Mark also tout the virtues of cheese and they’ll get no arguments from me! I’d never tried Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before, though – the grated stuff notwithstanding – so I also bought a chunk of P-R during the same Whole Foods trip. I used both of them on our supper that night, pan fried chicken (using a no-salt spice mixture from Trader Joe’s and the walnut oil) and roasted asparagus brushed with walnut oil and then, just before I pulled them from the oven, sprinkled with an ounce of freshly-grated cheese. Can you say delicious? We sure did! 

Pan-Fried Chicken Breast and Roasted Asparagus

Pan-Fried Chicken Breast and Roasted Asparagus

One of the first recipes they provide in this book is for Chocolate Pudding, which uses real chocolate as an ingredient is partly prepared on the stovetop. My past experience with making pudding has been opening a box, adding milk and stirring, so this was a real departure for me. But it was suprisingly easy to make and the results were well worth it! The pudding formed that delicious ’skin’ on top, so I was able to place a couple of fresh strawberries on top as a garnish. I’ll never go back to store bought pudding again.

REAL Chocolate Pudding

REAL Chocolate Pudding

My most recent recipe (so far) from the book is their Honey Walnut Bread, since I was itching to try something else with the walnut oil. The walnut flavor comes strictly from the oil rather than actual walnuts and the sweetness is provided by including bananas and just a bit of honey. I actually discovered when I was in mid-recipe that I only had about half the amount of honey on hand than what was called for, so while mine was probably a bit less sweet than the original recipe, it was still delicious, especially warm with a pat of butter spread on top. So good!

all it's missing is a dollop of butter!

Honey Walnut Bread

This final dish isn’t actually from Real Food Has Curves, but another foodie book I found in the library stacks, called Things Cooks Love. This is a beautiful and useful book for cooks, both novice and advanced. Divided up by ethnicity (e.g. Mexican, Indian, Asian, etc.) the book outlines the tools, foods and methods employed by the different world cuisines. It’s about the size of a coffee table book and includes gorgeous photos of dishes from around the world. One in particular caught my eye and tingled my taste buds: Three Alarm Tofu with Oyster Mushrooms and Spinach. I couldn’t wait to try it, so I made another trip to the grocery store and got the necessary ingredients. My store didn’t carry just oyster mushrooms, so I ended up getting a ‘gourmet blend’ that had oyster, baby bella and shitake. I don’t think the meal suffered by substitution! Here is my version atop some brown basmati rice. The tofu cooked perfectly and the dish, while flavorful, was not overly spicy. Definitely a keeper recipe!

Three-Alarm Tofu with Mushrooms and Spinach

Three-Alarm Tofu with Mushrooms and Spinach

So that’s it from my kitchen for now. What’s cooking in yours?