Dietitian's Journal

Entries in Recipes (11)


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.


Vegetarian Lentil Paella

Vegetarian Lentil Paella

If on a Sunday in early Autumn, you have a craving for fresh tomatoes in a warm, cooked dish rather than a  salad, may I suggest Vegetarian Lentil Paella. I don't want to be disloyal to my favourite ratatoulle but if pressed to choose, I think I'd use my last two tomatoes in this recipe:


Vegetarian Lentil Paella
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Vegetarian Recipes (Cooking for Today)

1 medium red or orange sweet pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow sweet pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced (1 cup)
1 medium white onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 medium red onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup lentils {addendum - I used split red lentils}
1-3/4 cups vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron or 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (1 cup)
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
1/3 cup pimiento-stuffed olives
1/3 cup pitted ripe olives
1/4 cup snipped cilantro or parsley

In a Dutch oven cook the peppers, celery, onions, and garlic in hot oil till the onion is tender but not brown. Rinse lentils. Add lentils, vegetable broth, and saffron or tumeric to the pepper mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or till lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in tomatoes, peas, stuffed olives, ripe olives, and cilantro or parsley. Heat through. Season to taste before serving. Makes 4 servings.


Food guide comparision:

Vegetarian Lentil Paella

A generous ladle-full (about 375 mL or 1-1/2 cups) of the paella served over a small scoop (about 175 mL or 3/4 cup) of brown basmati rice provides 2 servings of Vegetables, 1-1/2 servings of Grains, and 1 serving of Legumes, Nuts and Other Protein-Rich Foods.

Without consulting a computer program or food composition tables, I can tell you this vegetarian paella is an excellent source of protein, fibre, vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, and the anti-oxidant, lycopene. I'm following Martha Rose Shulman's example and not listing a more detailed nutritional analysis. (Thank you, Kathryn, for pointing out this thoughtful, provocative article -- required reading for anyone at risk of "nutritionism".)  Marion Nestle's comment, in the same article, applies here:

The basis of healthful diets is variety, relatively unprocessed foods, and not eating too much. Variety and processing matter because 'real' (relatively unprocessed) foods contain large numbers of required nutrients but in different amounts and proportions. If you vary food intake, you don't have to worry about individual nutrients because the foods complement each other.

(If you are on special diet for a medical condition, please email me and I will provide you with the nutrient analysis so you can determine if this recipe is appropriate for you.)

Vegetarian Lentil Paella


A creamy, cool, refreshing dip for al fresco dining

IMG_4382This dip is so cool, smooth and creamy I couldn't resist scooping it into a sundae dish. Though not quite a substitute for ice cream or your favourite frozen treat on a hot summer day, I think you'll find it refreshing -- plus you can dip your veggies in it.


Parsley, Cottage Cheese & Yogurt Dip
Source: adapted from a recipe (page 18) in The Lighthearted Cookbook by Anne Lindsay.

1 cup (250 mL) low-fat cottage cheese
1 tablespoon (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 cup (250 mL) fresh Italian parsley, stems removed
1/2 cup (125 mL) low-fat plain yogurt or light sour cream
freshly ground pepper to taste

Notes: (1) I don't measure the parsley that carefully & rely on my eye to judge the correct amount. As a variation you can replace some of the parsley with fresh dill; e.g., use 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley & 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill. (2) I like a chunky dip so I use a light touch with the food processor.

In food processor, lightly process cottage cheese & lemon juice until just blended.
Add parsley leaves, yogurt or sour cream & a dash of pepper. Process just until mixed & parsley leaves are coarsely chopped.
Cover & refrigerate dip for at least 4 hours to chill & blend flavours.
Serve with a rainbow of fresh vegetables. {Local & organic -- yes, please; fresh from the garden -- even better; eaten al fresco at a potluck picnic -- perfection.}

(The detailed nutrient analysis is on my computer at work and I will update this post with this information later today this weekend -- I'm off to visit a country garden today.)

Nutritional analysis:

Dip (PDF)
Assorted fresh vegetables (PDF)


Not just a cool-season crop: Kale in summer

Kale, Heirloom, 'Lacinato'_3678Last weekend I found a tasty, cool solution to my latest vegetable quandary: how to eat kale (Brassica oleracea) in the summer. These are the Epicurious reviews and photo that convinced me to use my first kale harvest in a salad rather than play it safe and make a classic kale and potato soup, which, despite its flavour and nutrition, doesn't appeal to me on a sunny June day when I don't want to ingest anything warmer than I am.

The recipe


Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad (Source)

"Inspired by an antipasto that's popular at New York City's Lupa, this substantial salad takes a hearty, rich green that's usually cooked and proves how delicious it can be when served raw."

Yield: Makes 6 servings       active time: 25 min       total time: 25 min


3/4 to 1 pound [340 to 454 grams] lacinato kale (also called Tuscan kale) or tender regular kale, stems and center ribs discarded
2 tablespoons [30 mL] finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 tablespoons [25 mL] fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon [1 mL] salt {note: I don't think the extra salt is needed. I find the cheese salty enough}
1/4 teaspoon [1 mL] black pepper
4 1/2 tablespoons [70 mL] extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces [60 g] or 1 cup [250 mL] coarsely grated ricotta salata


  1. Working in batches, cut kale crosswise into very thin slices. {I used scissors. After I established a technique and rhythm, it became a pleasant, relaxing task carried out in early morning sunshine & quiet on the balcony}
  2. Whisk together shallot, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.
  3. Toss kale and ricotta salata in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat well, then season with salt and pepper. {I suggest just enough dressing to coat lightly and omit the salt}.

The ingredients in my version

I'll be the first to admit my salad photo is not as pretty or professional as this Gourmet image but I'm pretty sure my version was as fresh and flavourful -- credit to good seeds, compost-enriched soil and the kindness of Mother Nature who showed a mostly sunny face from early May through mid-June. 

IMG_3808 Greens: Italian Heirloom Kale, 'Lacinato'
Description & nutrition information (PDF)
Ricotta Salata_3748Cheese: Ricotta Salata
Description & nutrition information (PDF)
IMG_3735Extra virgin olive oil & lemon


IMG_3830Kale ribbons & grated cheese, "undressed"



A variation on the original Gourmet recipe, served with sliced cucumbers.


My rating: 3.5 out of 4 forks (using the Epicurious rating system). The cheese was a bit salty for my palate. I'll make the recipe again, but use ricotta, though it will give a different texture. I'd also like to try some of the reviewers' suggestions such as serving the salad on crostini and other breads and crackers or adding grated carrots, hard boiled eggs & sunflower seeds and putting it over brown rice to make a one-dish supper. I think finely sliced kale, grated cheese and other finely grated and minced veggies would be a tasty filling in a rice-paper roll.


Recommended reading

From the blog 365 Days of Kale:

Eat the seasons|kale

New York Times Recipes for Health: Kale


I'm looking forward to your comments about this natural super-food and ways of enjoying it in any season.