Cassoulet is a traditional French dish from the Languedoc region, consisting of beans and fatty meats such as bacon, sausage and duck. This meatless version chock full of roasted vegetables, garlic and herbs will still satisfy a hearty appetite. Make it on a weekend when you have time to savour the wonderful aromas that will fill your kitchen as it cooks. Gently reheat leftovers either in the oven or on top of the stove for a quick lunch or dinner during the week.
2 cups dried navy beans
4 whole cloves
1 onion, halved
5 cups chicken stock (low fat, low sodium)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup fresh whole-grain breadcrumbs
1 tbsp + 4 tsp olive oil
2 carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz celeriac (or celery root), cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 pinches each salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
12 oz Brussels sprouts (14 to 16), trimmed and halved
8 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano1.
Cover beans with 6 cups water and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain.2.
Push 2 cloves into each onion half. Place in large saucepan along with beans, stock, garlic, parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to boil; cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Reserving cooking liquid, drain and place in large bowl. Discard onion, parsley, thyme and bay leaf.3.
Preheat oven to 425°F.4.
In bowl, toss together breadcrumbs and 1 tbsp oil. Set aside.5.
In bowl, combine carrots, sweet potato and celeriac; toss with 2 tsp oil and pinch each salt and pepper. Arrange in even layer on rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or until golden brown but still firm. Set aside. Reduce heat to 350°F.6.
In large non-stick frying pan, heat remaining 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion, celery, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Stir in wine, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, oregano and pinch each salt and pepper; cook for 2 minutes. Stir into beans.7.
Spread half of the bean mixture in 16-cup casserole. Top with roasted vegetables, then rest of bean mixture. Pour in reserved cooking liquid. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over top. Return to oven and continue cooking for another 45 minutes or until topping is golden and bean mixture is bubbling.Makes 6 to 8 servings.
: Cook the beans a day ahead and refrigerate. Assemble the rest of the dish the next day.Meat Variation
: Stir in 1/2 lb cooked lean ham, chopped, into bean mixture in Step 6.
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Cran-Apple Oatmeal Bars
Tuck these nutritious treats into packed lunches.
3 cups large-flake oats
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margarine
1 omega-3 egg
1 egg white
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup dried cranberries1.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.2.
In large bowl, combine oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.3.
In another bowl, beat together Splenda and margarine until fluffy. Beat in egg, egg white, applesauce and vanilla. Add oat mixture and stir to combine. Stir in cranberries. Scrape dough into prepared baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool completely and cut into bars.Makes 24 bars.
* * * * *Cranberry-Almond Biscotti
Both pretty and delicious, these biscotti make festive treats. Wrap some in a clear plastic bag and tie with ribbon for a hostess gift. Whole wheat pastry flour gives the biscotti a more delicate texture, but if you can’t find it, you can use regular whole wheat flour.
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup Splenda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 omega-3 egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped1.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.2.
In small saucepan, heat orange juice, Amaretto and cranberries just until hot. Remove from heat; let stand for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving juice.3.
In large bowl, mix together flour, Splenda, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg.4.
In separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg white, orange zest and 2 tbsp reserved juice from cranberries; stir into dry mixture until combined, adding more juice if necessary to make dough moist. Stir in almonds and cranberries.5.
Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet. With lightly floured hands, press into 16-inch log; flatten slightly. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm. Let cool for 10 minutes on rack.6.
Reduce oven heat to 325°F. Cut log diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between biscotti. Bake until golden brown and crunchy, about 25 minutes. Let cool on rack.Makes 20 cookies.
: Store in airtight container up to 1 week or wrap and freeze up to 3 months.
* * * * *Orange-Scented Broccoli and Leek Soup
The unusual combination of ingredients gives this soup personality.
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and light-green parts only) (see helpful hint below)
6 cups chicken stock or vegetable-based “chicken” stock (low fat, low sodium)
6 cups broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
1 cup large-flake oats
Zest of 1 medium orange
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup shredded light-style cheddar cheese (optional)
Freshly ground pepper1.
In large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook leeks for 7 to 8 minutes or until softened and golden brown. Add stock, broccoli, oats, orange zest, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in milk; continue to cook for another 10 minutes.2.
Serve each bowlful with sprinkle of cheddar cheese, if desired, and freshly ground pepper.Makes 6 to 8 servings.Helpful Hint
: To clean leeks, cut dark green part off and remove any outer layers. Trim root end. Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse under water to remove any dirt. Pat dry.
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Why Have We Become So Fat?
Nearly 56 percent of Canadians are overweight, and our obesity rate has doubled over the past twenty years. What’s happening to us? Why, in a relatively short time, have we gained so much weight? Diet books in the past have specified various reasons. In the eighties, we were told that we had too much fat in our diet. Most recently we were told that fat wasn’t the problem; it was actually carbohydrates. But both these explanations proved to be far too simplistic, and we soon realized that eating a low-fat or high-protein diet wasn’t the solution for our collective weight crisis.
At its most basic, our problem is that we’re consuming more calories than we’re expending, and the resulting surplus is stored around our waists, hips and thighs as fat. But to explain why we’re consuming more calories, we need to get back to basics and look at the three fundamental elements of our diet: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. We’ll start with carbohydrates, since the popularity of low-carb diets like the Atkins program has made them a hot topic and given them a bad rap. Though they’ve been blamed for all our weight problems, their role in weight control has been greatly misunderstood.Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are a necessary part of a healthy diet. They are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, which we now know play an important role in the prevention of heart disease and cancer. Carbohydrates are also the primary source of energy for our bodies. They are found in grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans) and dairy products. Here is how carbs work: when you eat an orange or a bagel, your body digests the carbohydrates in the food and turns them into glucose, which provides you with energy. The glucose dissolves in your bloodstream and then travels to the parts of your body that use energy, such as your muscles and brain. So carbs are critical to everyone’s health. What is important to realize when managing weight, however, is that not all carbs are the same.
Some carbohydrates break down into glucose in our digestive system at a slow and steady rate, gradually releasing their nutrients and keeping us feeling full and satisfied. Others break down rapidly, spiking our glucose levels and then disappearing quickly, leaving us feeling hungry again. For example, old-fashioned, large-flake oatmeal and cornflakes are both carbohydrates, but we all know the difference between eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and eating a bowl of cornflakes. The oatmeal stays with you – it “sticks to your ribs” as my mother used to say – whereas your stomach starts rumbling an hour after eating the cornflakes, propelling you toward your next snack or meal. If, throughout the course of a day, you are eating carbs that break down rapidly, like cornflakes, as opposed to those that break down slowly, you will be eating more and, as a result, will begin to put on weight. If, however, you start eating carbs that break down slowly, like old-fashioned oatmeal, you will eat less and begin to lose weight. Selecting the right type of carb is key to achieving your optimum energy and weight. But how do you know which carbohydrate is the right type and which isn’t?
Well, the first clue is the amount of processing that the food has undergone. The more a food is processed beyond its natural, fibrous state, the less processing your body has to do to digest it. And the quicker you digest the food the sooner you feel hungry again. This helps explain why the number of Canadian adults who are overweight has grown exponentially over the past fifty years. A hundred years ago, most of the food people ate came straight from the farm to the dinner table. Lack of refrigeration and scant knowledge of food chemistry meant that most food remained in its original state. However, advances in science, along with the migration of many women out of the kitchen and into the workforce, led to a revolution in prepared foods. Everything became geared to speed and simplicity of preparation. The giant food companies – Kraft, Kellogg’s, Del Monte, Nestlé – eagerly met this need. We happily began spending more money for the convenience of prepared, processed, packaged, canned, frozen and bottled food. The Kraft Dinner era had begun.
It was during this period that the miller’s traditional wind and water mills were replaced with high-speed steel rolling mills, which stripped away most of the key nutrients, including the bran, fibre and wheat germ (which could spoil), to produce a talcum-like powder: today’s white flour. This fine white flour is the basic ingredient for most of our breads and cereals, as well as for baked goods and snacks such as cookies, muffins, crackers and pretzels. Walk through any supermarket and you are surrounded by towering stacks of these flour-based processed products. We’re eating more and more of these foods; over the past three decades, our consumption of grain has increased by 50 percent. Our bodies are paying the price for this radical change in eating habits.
The second clue in determining whether a carbohydrate is the right type is the amount of fibre it contains. Fibre, in simple terms, provides low-calorie filler. It does double duty, in fact: it literally fills up your stomach, so you feel satiated, and it acts as a protective barrier against digestive juices, helping to slow down the digestive process. There are two forms of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is found in carbs like oatmeal, beans, barley and citrus fruits, and has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre is important for normal bowel function and is typically found in whole wheat breads, cereals and most vegetables.
Two other important components, fats and proteins, inhibit the rapid breakdown of food in our digestive system. Let’s look at fats first.
Fat, like fibre, acts as a brake in the digestive process. When combined with other foods, fat becomes a barrier to digestive juices. It also signals the brain that you are satisfied and do not require more food. Does this mean that we should eat all the fat we want? Definitely not!