Dietitian's Journal

Entries in An Honest Kitchen (3)


An Honest Kitchen "Makeovers"

Today on the dietitian's side of Green & Berries I'm pleased to feature a guest post by Kathyrn Elliott and Lucinda Dodds who have just released issue #6 of An Honest Kitchen, their beautiful, appetizing and intelligent digital publication about cooking, eating and enjoying "real food that's good for you." 


Kathryn and I (Lucy) were challenged by a reader to makeover some classic recipes, to give the An Honest Kitchen treatment to some favourite family meals, we jumped at the opportunity. What a fun idea, one with a practical and healthy outcome.

We researched what types of meals people turned to most often and what we discovered was that a lot of recipes, particularly traditional ones, required a pathetic amount of vegetables. We knew straight away that many could do with a makeover right there. If you're going to eat five portions of vegetables per day, the minimum required for good health, then dinner will probably – for most of us - need to contain at least three. That's not going to happen if a recipe asks for one carrot and half an onion between four people.

We also discovered that cutting back on the amount of oil you cook with, and on the cream and cheese while you’re at it, works a treat, with no compromise on flavour if you use other flavouring tools. Plus, keeping a good sense of what the proportions of your plate should look like by following our 50/25/25 rule (see below) keeps everyone happy and healthy.

Here are some of our thoughts on how to makeover any recipe you already love:

Double the vegetables.

Simply to double (or triple) the quantity of the vegetables given in any recipe. (Although you don't need to do this with ours!)

It's easier to add extra vegetables to your meal if you chose those which take a similar amount of time to cook. Pay attention to whether the recipe you want to makeover uses relatively quick cooking vegetables (e.g. zucchini, snow peas and spinach) or ones which take longer (e.g. carrots, pumpkin (winter squash), beetroot and onions).

Canned tomatoes and frozen peas count! Adding these can be a convenient way to get more vegetables into soups and stews particularly.

A half or whole bunch of chopped spinach or other greenery right at the end of the cooking works almost every time.

If in doubt, add a big green salad. One handful of salad is roughly equal to one vegetable portion.

Cut back on the oil you use

We find almost everything can be cooked in one or two tablespoons of olive oil.

Keep some measuring spoons by the stove as pouring by eye alone can be wildly inaccurate.

Start the cooking off at a slightly lower temperature than normal when using less oil, and stir more regularly at the beginning to prevent food sticking or browning too quickly.

Cut back on or replace the cheese and cream

If a favourite recipe uses cream you can use either natural yoghurt or yoghurt that has been whisked together with some ricotta in its place. If you're using just yoghurt, stir this through at the end, right before serving, to prevent it from splitting.

Reduce the overall quantity of cheese used, and make it a strong tasting cheese like vintage cheddar, feta or parmesan to boost flavour.

Instead of cream and/or cheese to lift a meal, try mustard, fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes, shoyu, chilli or citrus. Any of these can help the flavours to hum beautifully.  

Change the portions on your plate

Make vegetables about half of the bulk of each meal.

There's no need to go “carb free”, but aim to make the grain or potato portion of your meal about ¼ of the bulk on your plate. Cook less of these foods and replace some of them with vegetables.

Think about whether you need to reduce your portion of protein containing foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs and tofu. Aim for a piece of meat or chicken the size and thickness of your palm, or a piece of fish the size of your hand. As a general rule, make the protein portion of your meal about ¼ of the bulk on your plate.

A good rule is the 50/25/25 rule, a simple guideline to what your dinner plate should look like - 50% vegetable, 25% protein and 25% cereal (or potato).

So. What does a Makeover recipe look like? I’m glad you asked.

Macaroni & Cauliflower Cheesy Bake

Our inspiration for this was, of course, the traditional macaroni cheese. For our Makeover version we've added in plenty of vegetables; cauliflower and frozen spinach, plus some red lentils which are cooked in with the pasta. You’ll be getting at least three portions of vegetable per serve. By making a lighter sauce based on yoghurt, ricotta the calorie/kilojoule is drastically reduced. Easier, healthier and still delicious. Makes 4 serves

1 small - medium head of cauliflower, about 800g (a generous 1 ½ lbs)

180g (6 ½ oz) macaroni

¼ cup red lentils

90g (3 ¼ oz) frozen spinach

10-ish sprigs of fresh thyme

6 pieces sundried tomato

70g (2 ½ oz) strong tasting Cheddar

½ cup natural yoghurt

150g (5 ¼ oz) fresh ricotta

1 tablespoon wholegrain or Dijon mustard

1 slice wholegrain bread

1 tablespoon parmesan

1 large handful of mixed leaves per person

Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F).

Chop the cauliflower & cook the pasta: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. While you are waiting for the water, very roughly chop the cauliflower. Once the water is boiling add the macaroni and red lentils. Cook for about 4 minutes and then add the cauliflower and frozen spinach. Continue cooking until the pasta is al dente and the cauliflower is soft. Drain, making sure you reserve some of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce: Remove the thyme leaves from the stalk and place these in a large bowl. Roughly chop the sundried tomatoes and grate the Cheddar. Add these to the thyme, together with the yoghurt, ricotta and mustard. Mix well. Once the macaroni and vegetables are cooked, pour these into the cheese sauce. Add ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Season with lots of black pepper and then gently fold together, so the ingredients are well combined. Don't worry if it looks a bit sloppy at this stage.

Make the crunchy topping: Place the wholegrain bread and parmesan on a chopping board and run a knife through, chopping until the mixture resembles very rough breadcrumbs.

Bake the pasta: Tip the pasta and cauliflower into a baking dish. Scatter the bread and parmesan mixture over the top. Place in the oven and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

To serve: Place a large handful of salad leaves on each plate and then serve with the Macaroni and Cauliflower Bake.


For more ideas on making over the meals you love take a look at our publication An Honest Kitchen: Makeovers.

An Honest Kitchen is a regular publication all about real food that's good for you. Each issue is full of simple recipes, practical cooking information and healthy eating advice. Our latest edition, Makeovers, in which we revamp popular meals is available in e-format from 11 June.

(All photographs above by Lucinda Dodds)


Giveaway: I (Elaine) wholeheartedly agree with Kathryn's and Lucy's healthy eating philosophy and appreciate their great ideas for making over recipes to enhance health without compromising flavour. As a dietitian, I want to help promote their work. So I will be purchasing a copy of An Honest Kitchen, Makeovers (Issue #6) to give away to a lucky Greens & Berries reader. To enter, comment on this post. You can simply say "count me in" but feel free to share your favourite tip (Kathryn's and Lucy's or you own) for making over a favourite family recipe. The contest will run until the end of June July 15th when I will draw a random number & award the prize to the corresponding comment number. Good luck and good eating to all!


An Honest Kitchen #5: "Seasonal Desserts"

house is beautiful not because of its walls,
but because of its cakes.

~ Old Russian saying


here is a place for dessert, even in the healthiest of diets and to be honest, without the occasional dessert, life would be blander, paler and a lot less sociable.

     ~ An Honest Kitchen, Seasonal Desserts
by Kathryn Elliott & Lucinda Dodds


Because I wholeheartedly agree with the "old Russian" and believe Kathryn and Lucy have created something very special with Seasonal Desserts, I've purchased two copies of this e-Magazine to give to two very lucky Greens & Berries readers.

And I'm going to keep this post short and sweet.

Simply stated, Seasonal Desserts makes my cooking tastier, healthier and more creative. Here's why:

1) Nutrition savvy: Kathryn Elliott writes in an engaging, sensible, positive way on how to eat well without feeling deprived.
2) Warmth and beauty: Lucy's gorgeous film photographs are visual comfort food.
3) Reliability: Recipes have been triple-tested recipes to ensure consistent results.
4) Honesty: Recipes consist of basic, wholesome ingredients and clearly-explained methods.
5) Deliciousness:  The creative ingredient combinations please the palate.
6) Value: The 60-page (PDF) e-Magazine features ten seasonal recipes, many more healthy eating and food preparation tips, seasonal food guides and a wise reflection on the benefits of "a cup of tea", which I highly commend to myself as much as you, dear readers.

Berry and Hazelnut Cranachan

Chocolate Date Honey Balls

Disclosure: I was a recipe-tester for two recipes in this issue; you can see the results from my test kitchen in the preceding photographs. But I'm also a dietitian and try to be a critical, honest, fair evaluator. I followed the recipes exactly and the results were delicious and, in real life, much prettier. (My kitchen doesn't have the best light and I'm not a skilled food stylist.) The photographs, however, are truthful and authentic, which is in the spirit of An Honest Kitchen.

How to win a copy of Seasonal Desserts? Just leave a comment here. You're welcome to simply say "hello, count me in." But I'd love if you shared a story about how a dessert made a special or everyday occasion sweeter, brighter and more sociable.

You can double your chances of winning by going to my newish blog, More Greens & Berries, and leaving a comment on any post.

And though I have my biases about recipes, cookbooks and food bloggers I will be completely unbiased when selecting the two winning entries. Each comment will be assigned a number in consecutive order, based on its time stamp, and I'll use an online random number generator to select winners. (You can read more details in the fine print, below.)

Good luck to all!


An Honest Kitchen links:

An Honest Kitchen (new web site)
Limes & Lycopene (Kathryn Elliott's Web site)
Nourish Me (Lucinda Dodd's Web site)


The fine print about the give-away:  Excluding my immediate family, any dessert-lover in the world -- and beyond -- can enter! I will be purchasing two copies of the e-magazine, Seasonal Desserts, and sending the download link to two randomly selected commenters, one commenter on Greens & Berries, and one commenter on More Greens & Berries. I will be assigning each comment a number in chronological order based on the time stamp of the comment; i.e., the first commenter will be #1, the second #2, etc. I'll be using a random number generator to select the winners. Contest closes at midnight (2400 hrs, PST) Friday, November 16th.


Lentil Dal with Tomato & Kale

Lacinato Kale

Lacinato kale in late June, just before harvesting the first crop and combining ...

... with lentils, tomatoes & spices in this An Honest Kitchen inspired recipe.

Though I'd planned to save this post & recipe until Autumn, these past few days the weather's been cooler and wetter and my mood's been serious and introspective. Neither seems suitable for salads. So the time seems right to share this lovely dal recipe that's warming and comforting as well as simple, tasty and nourishing. Another winner from Kathryn & Lucy.


 Lentil Dal with Tomato & Kale

adapted from Lentil Dal with Tomato & Silverbeet in the Autumn 2010 issue of An Honest Kitchen by Kathryn Elliott & Lucinda Dodds.

Serves 3 - 4

1 cup (250 mL)  split red lentils, washed
2 cups (500 mL) water
2 slices fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon (1 mL) turmeric
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
large bunch of young kale, about 2 cups (500 mL) of harvested leaves without stems, washed and roughly chopped [the original recipe calls for silverbeet]
1 tablespoon (15 mL) canola oil
1 teaspoon (1 mL) mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
1 dried chilli
1 teaspoon (1 mL) ground cumin
1 teaspoon (1 mL) ground coriander

To serve: rice and some natural yoghurt (optional)

Cook the lentils:  Put the lentils, ginger and turmeric into a heavy-based saucepan with a lid. Add water. Bring to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and place the lid on the pan. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The lentils should be starting to break down and lose their shape. You may need to add a bit more water, if the dal becomes too thick and gluggy.

Add the vegetables:  Add the tomatoes and kale. It will look like way too much greenery at this stage, but don't worry. Give the dal a quick stir and then place the lid back on the pan. Continue cooking gently, for about 10 minutes, until the kale has wilted and softened.

Make the tarka:  Heat the oil in a separate small saucepan or frying pan. When hot, but not quite smoking, add the mustard seeds. These should start popping almost immediately. Put in the bay leaf and dried chilli. Cook for a few more seconds, just until these start to brown, and then add the cumin and coriander. Swirl the spices around in the oil for a couple of seconds and then pour the contents of the saucepan into the lentils. The lentils may spit slightly when you do this, so take care. Cover the pan immediately and leave to absorb the flavours for a couple of minutes. Remove the lid, stir and season with salt and pepper.

Some of Kathryn & Lucy's notes with my comments in {parentheses}:

Dals get even better after they've been stored in the fridge overnight – the flavours soften and blend. They can also be frozen. {Yes, I enjoyed the dal for lunch the next day & froze a couple of portions for quick meals.)

This makes a mild flavoured dal. If you want more heat, then use a chopped up fresh chilli instead of the dried one. {I like a spicy dal so I'd also add a pinch or two more of the other spices.}

We've chosen to use split red lentils, as they're the quickest cooking. However you could use almost any type of split bean or pea in this recipe. Just be aware it may take longer to cook and need some extra water added during the  cooking. {I encourage you try the split red lentils -- they create a lovely colour scheme with the kale & tomatoes.}

A bowl of dal, with rice and mango chutney is comfort food for me [Lucy] — the silverbeet and tomato make for a wonderful, creamy dish.  {Mmmmmm.}


Elaine's nutrition notes:

This tasty combination of three, natural "superfoods" (lentils, tomato, kale) provides a full array of building blocks for good health, particularly protein, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, assorted phytonutrients, potassium, calcium and iron. Truly the definition of a nutrient-dense recipe.

Nutrient analysis of Lentil Dal with Tomato & Kale (PDF) - I don't encourage healthy people to "count calories." But some individuals on special diets for health conditions (e.g., kidney disease, iron deficiency anemia, protein-energy malnutrition) may need this information either to make sure they're meeting their needs or not exceeding restrictions.

With my second crop of kale ready to harvest and farmers' market tomatoes at their peak, I'll be making this dal again soon.