Category Archives: Heart-Healthy

Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry 1
Here’s the recipe I promised I’d post to go with the curry powder recipe I posted last time. Once again, here it is holiday time, and unlike most other food blogs this time of year, I’m posting a recipe that doesn’t really have anything to do with the holidays. Or does it? It’s colorful, with lots of red and green– festive holiday colors! And this can be a healthier change of pace between the heavier, high fat holiday meals. Or for afterward, when New Year’s Resolutions kick in. Plus, a good, tasty curry every now and then will help get you through the long winter months to come.

This is a very healthy meal with its variety of vegetables, and even the curry powder may have health benefits. As for what oil to use, ghee is typically used in Indian cooking– it’s butter that’s been clarified by heating it and removing the milk solids. It’s supposed to be a little lower in saturated fat, therefore healthier than butter. But I just used regular butter, which I don’t think is really all that unhealthy used in reasonable amounts. Or you can use olive oil.

This can also be a pretty quick and easy meal to make. It’s not necessary to make your own curry powder, you can use store-bought curry powder and this curry will still be very good. And you don’t need to go through the process of browning the onions– it adds some depth and complexity to the flavor, but you can just cook the onions with the red and green pepper to save time. If you choose not to brown the onions use about half the onion this recipe calls for, because browning the onions really reduces their volume.


  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 3-4 medium to large onions
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 tablespoons low-fat unflavored yogurt
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2-3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (optional)
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • Added red pepper to taste
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter, ghee or olive oil
  • 3 cups cooked basmati rice

Serves about 4

Get the rice cooking according to its package directions so it’s ready by the time the curry is. Now get the primary ingredients cut up: dice up the onions, mince up the garlic and ginger, chop the red and green pepper into chunks and cut the chicken into around 1″ cubes:

Chicken Curry Ingredients
Now we’ll brown up the onions. If you want to make a quicker version of this, you can skip this and go on to step 3, and cook the onions with the other vegetables. Heat up two of the tablespoons of butter, ghee or oil in a large pan and cook the diced onions on medium-high heat, constantly stirring, until the moisture starts to cook out of them and they turn brown. This will take about 20 minutes to a half hour. Careful to just brown the onions, not burn them. Here’s what they look like when they’re almost ready:

Browning Onions for Curry
Brown the chicken on medium-high heat with a tablespoon of butter/ghee/oil. I used a separate pan so I could brown the onions at the same time in the other pan, but if you don’t brown the onions you can do all the cooking in one pan. No need to make sure the chicken is cooked completely through– it’ll finish cooking in the curry sauce.

Browning Chicken for Curry
Once the chicken is browned, remove it and cook the peppers (and onions if you’re not browning them) until softened up, adding another tablespoon of butter/ghee/oil if needed. Add the minced garlic and ginger once the peppers have gotten a good head start.

Cooking Curry Vegetables
Deglaze the pan– add a little chicken stock to the pan that the vegetables and chicken cooked in, and use a spoon to scrape up the browned stuff in the pan from the chicken. Do the same to the pan with the onions if you browned them. Combine the cooked vegetables in one pot with the rest of the chicken stock, chicken, can of diced tomatoes, spices and bay leaves. Simmer in an open pot for at least a half hour. Note: I added some garam masala as well because I had it on hand, but if you don’t have it you can just use a little more curry powder instead.

Simmering Chicken Curry
When it’s done simmering, add the lime juice and mix in the yogurt. Add some red pepper if it’s not spicy enough for you. Serve over the rice. Add some fresh chopped cilantro as a garnish if you like. Enjoy!

Chicken Curry 2

Stir-Fry Pepper Steak

Stir Fry Pepper Steak

Back when I was a single college student, not as into cooking as I am today, there was a pepper-steak making kit, I think made by La Choy, that I liked making. I don’t know if it’s even sold anymore. You’d buy the steak separately and cut that up, but the vegetables came pre-cut in a can, along with a little packet of powder you’d mix with water to make the sauce. So it was mostly pre-made, but involved just enough cooking to make you feel like you accomplished something. And it was tasty.

But those preserved vegetables that came out of the can probably weren’t quite at the peak of their nutritional value. These days I still sometimes get the hankering for a simple stir-fry, but I use better and fresher ingredients. This is quick, easy and really good.


  • 1 lb. sirloin steak
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15oz. can bean sprouts
  • 1 cup dry rice (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 15 oz. low-sodium beef stock
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Start cooking the rice according to the rice brand’s cooking instructions. It should take about 20 minutes to cook- just in time for the stir fry to be done cooking.
Cut the red and green peppers into thin strips. Slice up the mushrooms. Cut the green onions into about 1/2″ strips. Mince the garlic and ginger up finely. Cut the steak into thin strips similar to the peppers. Remove the bean sprouts form the can and drain. Now most of your work is already done:

Chopped Stir Fry Ingredients

Now we make the sauce. Mix a heaping tablespoon of corn starch with a little water. Mix that into the beef stock, and add the soy sauce and black pepper:

Stir Fry Sauce

Now heat a couple tablespoons of peanut oil in a large pan, and brown the steak strips with the garlic and ginger. If you have a wok with gas stovetop burners, by all means use that- I have a wok, but alas my stove has electric burners so I use a flat pan to get the temperature hot enough– stir fry should involve high heat and plenty of stirring:

Steak, Garlic and Ginger

Add the remaining vegetables except for the bean sprouts, and stir-fry until the vegetables are cooked just enough to be still somewhat crisp and still brightly colored:

Meat And Peppers

Add the bean sprouts and sauce and cook a little longer, stirring, until the sauce thickens up a little. Serve over the rice. Enjoy!


PaellaPaella is a dish originated by Spanish peasants, who used whatever they had on hand that day to make it, with local vegetables and whatever meat they could get hold of– often rabbit. That sense of improvisation makes paella perfect for

Over the years I’ve made many variations on Paella (Haven’t tried a version with rabbit yet, though). Often Paella has a combination of meats, seafood being very prominent. But I’ve made a version that was chicken-only when we had a friend over who was allergic to shellfish. And it would be very easy to make a very good vegetarian Paella, maybe with some eggplant added. So feel free to experiment with your own ingredients!

Pretty much the only constant ingredients when making paella are some type of short-grain rice and saffron. Fun fact about saffron- it’s one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive, spices per pound in the world. But don’t let that discourage you and decide to leave it out– you only use a very small amount. The distinctive bright yellow color and the unique and very distinctive flavor saffron adds to Paella makes it a very key ingredient.

For the rice, I used to use Arborio, the same style used for Risotto, but I recently read that it’s too starchy for Paella– the starchiness of Arborio is what gives Risotto that creamy texture when you stir the Risotto while it’s cooking. So for this recipe I tried a “Calrose” rice. I’ve heard Valencia or Calasparra are better, but they may be hard to find and may require purchasing online.

So for my version these days I’ve settled on a combo of chicken, Mexican Chorizo (I take it out of its casing and roll up little chorizo meatballs), shrimp and mussels. Spanish Chorizo might be a more “authentic” choice but I like the Mexican version. As for vegetables, my version is a little more unothodox– I like adding artichoke hearts, which I don’t think I ever saw in any Paella recipe but I think works in my version. Peas seem to be typical in every other Paella recipe I’ve seen, but peas are one of the few vegetables I’m not really crazy about, so I leave them out. Please feel free to add peas to yours if you like them. I’ve joked my version should really be called “Aella”, because….no P’s! (Sorry, that’s why I don’t write a humor blog).

With its bright colors– the bright yellow from the saffron, the green and red of the peppers and tomatoes, this makes a festive meal for around the holidays. Many families have a “Feast of Seven Fishes” tradition on Christmas Eve– an all-seafood Paella could easily be part of that. Heck, even if you’re looking for something a little different for Christmas dinner. Or this would work for a New Year’s Eve dinner as well. Anytime is Paella time. Enjoy!


  • 1 1/2 cups short grain rice (Calrose or Valencia is good; Arborio will work too)
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 16 jumbo shrimp
  • 2 links Mexican chorizo
  • 1/2 lb. mussels
  • 1 green bell pepper or 1/2 green, 1/2 red pepper
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 15oz. can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 bottle of clam juice
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Juice from 1-2 lemons
  • 1/2 Tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 Tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2-1 Tsp. Creole-style Seasoning (Like Tony Chachere’s)
  • 1/4 Tsp. Saffron
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil


Special Utensils:

  • I used a heavy-duty iron wok, which actually works really well for making Paella. An authentic paella pan would of course be best, but any deep, wide pot with a heavy-duty bottom would work.


Serves 4-6

Chop chicken into 1″ pieces; take chorizo out of casing and roll into small (1″) meatballs.

Dice pepper and onion and mince up garlic cloves.

Heat up chicken stock in a separate pan and keep hot, just under a simmer.

Meat and Veggies Cooking

Meat and Veggies Cooking

Add olive oil to pan or wok and heat on high. When good and hot, add chicken and chorizo and stir frequently until the meat is browned.

Add diced pepper and onion and stir until they’ve started to cook through. Add minced garlic and stir until the vegetables are almost cooked through.

Add rice and stir until the rice has been coated with oil and mixed in well.

Pealla Seasonings

In go the saffron and other seasonings

Then add the can of tomatoes, lemon juice, clam juice and seasonings. Stir together, then cover and set on low-medium heat. Check at regular intervals and add the hot chicken stock to the Paella as the rice absorbs the liquid.

Rinse the mussels off with cold water and give them a scrub if you like. Remove the “beards”– the stringy fibers the mussel used to anchor itself. Make sure all mussel shells are tightly closed. If any are open and don’t close immediately with a couple taps against the counter, discard.

10-15 minutes before the rice is finished cooking (about 30 minutes, 40-45 total cooking time), add the shrimp and mussels. Since the rice can’t really be stirred at this point, push the shrimp down and fold into the rice so it’s completely covered. Push the mussels about halfway down into the rice and cover the Paella. Cook or 10 or so more minutes, until the mussel shells have opened. discard any shells that don’t open after cooking.



Tomato-Basil Sauce from Scratch

Tomato-Basil Sauce

The weather here in Michigan was unusually cool for much of the early part of the summer, so our tomatoes have been slow to ripen, but we’re finally getting lots of ripe tomatoes. I was able to collect enough tomatoes from our Roma plants to make a batch of sauce from scratch. It turned out to be just enough sauce for Kristina and I, so double or triple this recipe up as necessary.

A lot of people who otherwise enjoy cooking Italian food might think making tomato sauce from whole tomatoes might be too difficult or daunting. It takes a little time, and it’s a little messy, but it’s pretty easy. I made this today and the time from picking the tomatoes and basil to serving was less than two hours– and that was while making a batch of pesto on the side. And the result of sauce made from fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil directly out of the garden is transcendentally delicious. I couldn’t believe how good this was the first time I made it.

As mentioned, the tomatoes typically used for making sauce are Roma, or Plum tomatoes. If you want to try making this sauce and don’t have a garden with Roma tomatoes and basil plants, find a local farmer’s market. I wouldn’t bother using grocery store tomatoes for this sauce– they’ve usually been bred for hardiness when shipping, not flavor, and they’re harvested and shipped when not fully ripe so they can be transported with less damage.


  • About 28 medium-sized Roma tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)


Special Utensils:

  • Blender
  • Cheesecloth


Serves 2

Choose a batch of nice, ripe Roma tomatoes:

Blanching tomaotesHeat a pot of water and Rinse your Roma tomatoes. When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes a few at a time, leaving each batch in for a minute of so at a time to loosen the skin of the tomatoes which makes them easy to remove. Don’t throw them all in at once like I did in the pic here– it’ll take a while for the water to get boiling again and you don’t want to cook the tomatoes too much, just enough so the skin pulls right off. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Once the tomatoes are out, rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them off enough to handle.

Now here’s what to do to each tomato:

Cut off the stem end and remove the skin.


Cut in quarters and scoop out the seeds and jelly, leaving the “meaty” part of the tomato.

Dice it up. Now just repeat a few dozen times.

cheeseclothNow we take the diced tomato pieces and put them in a ayer of cheesecloth folded double. wrap up the cheescloth around the diced tomatoes and tie the top of the cloth around a wooden spoon. Twist the spoon to tighten the cheesecloth and squeeze the excess water out of the tomatoes. This step is important– if you skip it your sauce will be watery.

When you’ve squeezed out all the water you can, put some or all the diced tomato pieces in a blender and puree. I like my sauce a little chunky, so I reserve a half to a third to stay diced and process the rest.

Now we’re ready for cooking. Heat up a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a pan and sautee the diced garlic. When the garlic is softened up, our in the tomato sauce. Add the salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

sauce-basil2While the sauce is cooking, cut up the basil leaves. A simple way to do this is to stack batches of basil leaves from large to small and roll them up, cutting the rolled up leaves into strips. Add the basil and cook for 5 more minutes.

The sauce is complete! Add to your favorite pasta and serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese if you like. Enjoy!


Grilled Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I felt like grilling something sort of Mexican style last weekend. I had a general idea of marinating and grilling flank steak with some peppers and onions and making fajitas. So I stopped at the grocery store to get a few ingredients– the steak, some corn tortillas… and I noticed some nice-looking poblano peppers that intrigued me. Decided to pick up a few poblanos, not sure what I’d do with them. We already had plenty of red and green peppers to grill for the fajitas, so I decided to stuff the poblanos. Never tried stuffing them before, but I’d heard about stuffed poblano peppers and it sounded good in theory. Well, I put together some stuffing ingredients from what I had around, and the stuffed poblanos turned out fantastic on the grill! Delicious and filling. So good in fact, that we started eating them first and almost forgot about the flank steak, although that turned out great too. Maybe I’ll do a post about the flank steak next week. We decided the stuffed poblanos and the steak would be enough for dinner and figured we’d make fajitas another day.

It’s easy to make this a vegetarian meal if you use water instead of chicken stock to cook the rice and leave out the bacon. Leave out the cheese, and it’s vegan.


  • 4 Poblano Peppers
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, like Basmati
  • 2 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock or Water
  • 6 Strips Cooked, Diced Bacon
  • 1 Small Diced Red Onion
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1/2 Cup of your Favorite Salsa
  • 1/2 Cup of Shredded Cheese– Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, or any combo thereof
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper


Special Utensils:

  • Just a Grill


Serves 4

Heat the 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock or water to boiling, then add the rice, turn heat down to low, and cover. When the rice is ready in about 20 minutes, mix with the other stuffing ingredients. The same tip I gave for the fried rice recipe applies here– use just a little bit less than 2 cups of liquid to the 1 cup of rice, and it’s also a good idea to undercook the rice just a little. There’s more liquid to be added with the salsa and beans and more cooking to be done on the grill.

Cut the tops off the poblano peppers and carefully cut the two ribs on each side of the seed pod area that holds it to the inside of the pepper, so the seeds can be removed. Fill the empty pepper with the stuffing mix and put the top of the pepper back on, holding it on with two toothpicks.

The same grilling instructions from the Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon post apply here: Get enough charcoal ready for one side of the grill, and soak a handful of your favorite type of wood chips. When the coals are ready, add the wood chips and roast the peppers on the hot side of the grill to get a nice char (but be careful not to burn them), turning at least once to a side. Then move the peppers to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. The peppers will take about 15 minutes total to cook, so if you’re grilling them with a thin steak like a flank steak, you’ll want to start the peppers first. Enjoy!