Saturday, April 05, 2008

How I Diet (and Pasta with Broccoli Rabe)

I don't really diet actually. I'm big on balance, so if I've had a weekend of rich restaurant meals, I follow it up with nutritious food prepared very simply. The real trick is making satisfying meals that fill you up. Greens, for example, are easy to prepare healthfully and you can eat a bushel of them for very few calories.

Soup is another great food for restoring dietary balance because you can make it filling and healthy and still eat a ton of it. Since last week was too hot for soup around here, I wanted something light and spicy, so I made this pasta dish with sauteed broccoli raab, chickpeas and whole wheat fettucine.

Take a look at that big, 12-inch skillet full of delicious, hearty pasta. All that food consists of just 4 oz. of pasta, a cup of beans and one bunch of greens. It's the right amount for two very healthy meals that aren't the least bit skimpy or "diety." I sort of just put this one together without a recipe, and I liked it so much that it's totally a keeper. Here's what you do:

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli Raab and Chickpeas
Serves 2

- Trim and chop up one big bunch of broccoli raab and blanch for 3 minutes in boiling water. Transfer greens from pot to a colander with a slotted spoon and drain. Keep the water boiling, add salt and cook 4 oz. of whole wheat fettucine or linguine.

- Meanwhile, heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a large skillet. Saute 3 fat cloves of garlic, slivered, hot pepper flakes to taste and the drained broccoli raab until stems are tender. Add 1 cup rinsed and drained chickpeas; season with salt and pepper. Add 8 roughly chopped kalamata olives.

- Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta. Add pasta to skillet and toss. Add about 1/2 cup pasta water to moisten and use more if you like. Squeeze some lemon juice on pasta and check seasoning. Dish into 2 bowls and top each with 2 tbs. grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Makes great leftovers.

Another favorite (and easy!) healthy dinner is baked salmon with mashed sweet potatoes, so that's what I had the following night. I do nothing with my salmon but coat it with cooking spray, season with salt, pepper and maybe spices like cumin and chile powder. Roast it at 400 for around 20 minutes and it's completely delicious. The only things I add to my mashed sweet potatoes are a little milk and spices like cinnamon and chile powder (and of course salt and pepper). Another healthy favorite is salmon with lentils - it really doesn't get more nutritious or satisfying than that.

When I want to eat really well, I also pay close attention to my portion sizes, even measuring and counting calories. I've sort of had an automatic calorie counter in my head since I was a teenager and, for better or worse, it does help to know just how much you're really eating.

This weekend, we're still eating pretty healthy, and we might make a batch of my carrot-ginger-curry soup, which Mike loved. There was also still plenty of room to include pizza - our favorite Friday night staple - in our healthy eating plan.

We came up with this pizza as we were sitting around waiting to have our taxes finished yesterday afternoon. It was Mike's idea to put our favorite dish from our favorite tapas bar - mushrooms in a creamy sherry sauce - on a pizza (with my whole wheat pizza crust, of course). We added shredded chicken and shaved Manchego cheese. It was an awesome and rather healthy dinner along with some Italian red wine.

So that's how I diet...what are the tricks you use when you want to eat healthy?


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Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Soup for dinner every night is my new diet method. Doesn't matter what kind of soup, but if I have that as my main course (my only course), I get filled up with something that's mostly water and veggies. Also, trying not to eat anything after 8 pm.

Julie said...

Lydia: yeah, soup is a good one. It's all about volume. There was a clever diet in Good Housekeeping magazine a few months ago where you make a huge batch of vegetable soup and eat as much as you want throughout the day for snacks. Then you doctor it to create new soups for dinner. If I was really trying to drop pounds, I'd probably try it.

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LisaRene said...

I count my calories. For every recipe I make I figure the calories per serving. It's so easy to make minor adjustments that can save you hundreds of calories.

A simple meal of roasted or steamed vegetables are my ideal after over indulging on the weekends. You can eat a ton of veggies for so few calories.

Fearless Kitchen said...

I love the pasta with broccoli raab. We've been using more raab lately - I love the flavor, and it's another vegetable my husband and I can agree on.

Julie said...

LisaRene: Yeah, it all comes down to calories in vs. calories out. I seem to have encyclopedic knowledge of calorie counts for various foods, so I'm often tallying them in my head whether I want to or not!
Fearless: Broccoli raab is my favorite green vegetable (my husband's too). I like the bitter flavor. It's more of a "nice" vegetable side dish for us because you have to go thru the trouble of blanching it before sauteing, but it is worth it.

Mo said...


Your healthy meals look yummy. When I'm making an effort to eat healthier, I definately eat more fish. (I'm not a big soup eater, and it's to hot here most of the year.) Do you cut down on wine?
I usually cut down on starch and keep the wine :)

Tartelette said...

Great pasta dish! April is soup for dinner for me as May is usually filled with plenty calorific reasons to celebrate my getting older!! Meant to tell you that I made the carrot soup this past weekend and we loved it!

Katy said...

Yum! When I'm trying to recover from overindulging, I usually eat sushi for dinner several nights in a row, or else an Amy's Organic meal with extra veggies thrown in. That, and I usually increase my gym time, because I'd much rather work out more than eat less! It usually works pretty quickly. :-)

mavelicious said...

I like that you use a lot of mediterranean ingredients in your dishes like kalamatas and capers. They jazz just about anything up--good and good for you! My fave brand for mediterranean ingredients is Mezzetta from Napa Valley. I like some of your sweet ideas, too. Will try them as soon as the diet works!

cristian said...
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