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Healthy Eating in 2009
A Few Ideas for Getting Started
by Kirk Leins

Healthy Eating in 2009 - A Few Ideas for Getting Started - by Kirk Leins

The holidays have come and gone, and we are well on our way into a brand new year. I realize that I've just stated the obvious. I also realize that you're probably wondering how it relates to the subject of food. For me at least, the beginning of the new year means attempting to cleanse my body after two crazy months marked by decadent eating.

Happy New Year
I'm always relieved when the new year is well underway. It actually has less to do with my schedule returning to normal, than it does my diet returning to normal. With Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's to celebrate, attempting to avoid fattening foods during the holidays feels like a cruel joke with a punch line that lasts for two months.

Aside from a slightly slower pace, the nice part about this time of year is that we're about to head into a stretch of months that hold fewer reasons to celebrate. The holidays that do exist are one-day affairs, spread far enough apart that their effects are no worse than a food-centric Saturday.

But, just because we won't be staring down items such as pumpkin pie, eggnog and Christmas cookies, doesn't mean we're interested in beginning a fast, or even a diet for that matter. It's quite the contrary, actually. We still want to eat delicious tasting food on a daily basis, we just want it to be a little healthier. A few less calories and fat grams, and lot less cholesterol, right?

Well if I'm making sense here, and if it seems that I'm speaking directly to you, then keep reading because it's going to get even better. What I've decided to do for this month's issue of YOU Magazine is to load you up with some great recipes that fit the bill. These main dish recipes can be made any night of the week, or for a far more special occasion. They're easy on the wallet, even easier on the waistline, and the best part – they taste phenomenal!

Blackened Fish (serves 4)
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say they needed to eat more fish I could buy a fishing boat. Now, there are no more excuses because what I'm about to give you is a very authentic Cajun recipe for blackening fish. The best part is you can use whatever fish you like the most, or fits into your budget. My only prerequisite is that you use fresh fish, not frozen. Salmon, swordfish, red snapper, and mahi mahi all work especially well with this recipe.

  • 4 6-oz. fresh fish filets, roughly 1.25" thick and skin removed
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, melted and kept slightly warm
  • 1.5 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2.5 tsp kosher salt
  • Lemon wedges

In a pie tin, combine all the dry seasonings and mix well with a fork.

Heat a cast iron skillet over a high heat. Be sure to open all the windows and turn on the fan above your stove.

Lightly brush each fish filet in butter and dredge both sides in seasoning mix.

Once the pan starts smoking (about 5 to 10 minutes), reduce heat to medium-high and place filets in skillet. Drizzle the top of each filet with 1 tsp of melted butter and cook for 2 minutes.
Flip each filet and drizzle one more tsp of melted butter on to each. Cook for 2 minutes.
Flip filets once again, drizzle each with one more tsp of melted butter and cook for an additional minute.
Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.

This recipe yields a wonderfully moist, flavorful piece of fish that's perfect alongside steamed rice and veggies. It's a super quick dinner that's sure to please anyone with a taste for intricately spiced foods.

It's important to note that while the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, it is meant to serve 4 people. This equates to 2 tablespoons per person. While butter may be the traditional ingredient for making this dish, anyone looking to eliminate it can substitute with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of room temperature canola oil.

Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mango Chutney Sauce (serves 4)
When people think of pork, many times the "fattier" cuts are the ones that come to mind. But, let's not forget, pork is the "other white meat" and this is never truer than when you're dealing with pork tenderloin.

Simply put, pork tenderloin is the filet mignon of the pig. It is a super lean cut of meat, which is great for two reasons. The first is rather obvious in that it's very healthy. Second, and not so obvious, is that pork has a tendency to get its flavor from fat. Considering that tenderloin has little fat, it should be no surprise that it doesn't have a ton of flavor. It may not sound like a positive, but when it comes to flavoring meat with spices, herbs and sauces, pork tenderloin is as accommodating as it gets.

For the meat:

  • 2.5 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed lean
  • 2 tbsp pure chili powder
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp of each of the following: ground cumin, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce

  • 10-12 oz. Major Grey's Mango Chutney
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine chili powder, paprika, salt, cumin, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Lay pork tenderloin on cutting board and brush all sides with olive oil. Season the loin on all sides with spice mixture.

Heat skillet over a medium-high heat and add two to three tbsp of olive oil. When oil is hot add pork loin and sear for thirty seconds on all sides.

Transfer tenderloin to a sheet pan and roast in oven for 16-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add all of the ingredients for the sauce into a small saucepot and heat over a medium flame. Bring to a boil and reduce to a light simmer. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes and then turn off heat and cover with lid.
At the 16 minute mark, remove sheet pan from oven and insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the tenderloin. If it reads 135 to 140 degrees, it's done. If it reads less, return tenderloin to oven for a few more minutes.

Allow tenderloin to rest for 5 minutes. Slice into one-inch medallions, figuring 4 to 5 medallions per plate.

Plate medallions and drizzle with mango chutney sauce.

This tenderloin is absolutely delicious served alongside a mound of cous cous and either a green vegetable, or a simple salad. The other great thing about this dish is the awesome leftovers it yields.

Slice the pork super thin and place on bread along with Swiss cheese, deli ham slices, sliced red onion, and pickle chips. Prepare the sandwich just as you would a grilled cheese, and the result is a take-off on the national sandwich of Cuba, known as the Cubano.

Nori-Crusted Steak (serves 4)
Who says steak can't be healthy, especially when it's simply prepared, and served with some figure-friendly foods? This recipe utilizes nori (the dried sheets of seaweed used in sushi rolls), so it's the perfect dish for meat eaters who love sushi, or those who are somewhat on the fence about eating raw fish.

  • 2 12-oz. New York strip steaks (1 to 1.25 inches thick), trimmed of external fat
  • 4 sheets of nori, torn into large pieces
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp aji-mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

Season both sides of steaks with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place the nori, sesame seeds and crushed red pepper into a food processor. Process the ingredients until they resemble a fine but textured seasoning mix.

Move the nori mixture to a dish and dredge both sides of the steaks in the mixture. Set the dredged steaks aside.

Meanwhile, place all of the sauce ingredients into a small bowl and whisk to combine.

In a skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering and quite hot. Sear steaks for 3 - 4 minutes on each side for rare/medium rare. Allow steaks to rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes.

Slice steaks on the bias (crosswise) and arrange on plates. Drizzle with sauce and garnish with extra sesame seeds.
I recommend serving this steak with steamed rice and a generous serving of cucumber and tomato salad.

Your plan for eating healthy in 2009 has just been jumpstarted. It's important to know that all of the ingredients I mentioned can be found in most large supermarkets, but feel free to adapt these recipes to suit your taste and needs. Whatever you do, just know that eating healthy doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your taste buds.

Here's to eating dinners that are healthy and tasty!

Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. Sign up for Kirk’s free newsletter and cooking blog at

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