Many of us will make a commitment to healthier living after the holidays, even if it’s a foggy memory of a New Year’s resolution shouted at a ceiling full of streamers. You may try a strict “I’m never eating cake again” approach but, for most of us, that just doesn’t last. This year I found a kinder, gentler approach to improving the quality of my diet that can work long after the New Year’s Day fog has lifted.
Yum & Yummer; Ridiculously Tasty Recipes That’ll Blow Your Mind, But Not Your Diet! (One Spoon Media Inc: 2017) is Greta Podleski’s first solo book. The St. Thomas native is well known as half of the Looneyspoons team with her sister, Janet. Together, they’ve written four national bestseller cookbooks and hosted the Eat, Shrink & Be Merry television series on Food Network Canada. Greta, now based in Waterloo, has continued to share her love of good food with us.
Podleski has a non-judgmental approach to healthy eating that makes us forgive her unholy love of puns. She’s a self-taught cook who is passionate about making real food for real life, preferring fresh, natural ingredients to something out of a box. Still, she does recognize that life is complicated and time is short. When a store-bought ingredient makes more sense, she advises reading the label carefully to choose the best one for your needs.
For those who want all the details, nutritional analyses are included with each recipe. There’s an easy code with each dish indicating if it’s dairy-free, gluten-free or vegan. Most include extra suggestions for customizing the recipe or tips, in the form of “Kitchen Whizdom”. You can get the ingredients for all of Yum & Yummer’s recipes at any well-stocked grocery store and most can be made in time for a busy weeknight dinner. I think anyone could find something to love in this book.
Podleski studied food photography so she could take the photos herself and the results are wonderful. There are beautiful pictures with every recipe in addition to a QR code (which she calls a YUM code) that you can scan with your smartphone or tablet to watch a short video. If, like me, you have a cell phone old enough to have a rotary dial, you can just go online to yumyummer.com to see all the videos. The only thing I enjoy more than cooking good food is watching someone else do it.
The Apricot, Sriracha & Ginger-Glazed Meatballs are perfect as appetizers but I also tried adding them to rice noodle bowls as a main dish and was delighted with the results. Made with ground chicken, they are light, sweet, spicy and tangy, hitting all the notes for a perfect snack. These are becoming a regular staple in my freezer.
Move over Leek & Potato, there’s a new soup in town. Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup is now my favourite cold weather food. It’s filled with all the flavours of a stuffed pepper but it’s easier to make and as a steamy bowl of soup is far more comforting. I usually have cooked rice in the fridge which means I can make this dish in one pot, in under an hour with pantry staples. Theoretically, this leaves extra time for more exercise, another New Years Resolution. Which I will do as soon as I’ve read through this book a few more times. And finished all the videos. I swear.
Yum & Yummer is a very well rounded book. It’s informative, entertaining and visually appealing. Best of all, it shows you lots of ways to put more healthy food on your plate, keeping you satisfied enough to resist the high calorie, low nutrition offerings left over from the holidays. Which is not to say that this is “diet” food, just better food. Who couldn’t use more of that?
Recipes excerpted from Yum & Yummer: Ridiculously Tasty Recipes That’ll Blow Your Mind, But Not Your Diet! (One Spoon Media Inc., 2017) by Greta Podleski, reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Apricot, Sriracha & Ginger-Glazed Meatballs
As the saying goes, “These aren’t your mama’s meatballs!” Nothing against mama, of course. And I don’t believe that’s actually a saying. Regardless, I created this sweet-heat, party-meatball recipe specifically for Sriracha lovers. You know, the folks who carry around mini squeeze bottles of the trendy hot sauce on their key chains? Make these when you wanna kick things up a notch.
1 ½ lbs (680 g) lean ground chicken
½ cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs
¼ cup finely minced green onions (with white parts)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated fresh gingerroot
1 tsp dark sesame oil
½ tsp each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup no-sugar-added apricot jam*
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated fresh gingerroot
½ tsp dark sesame oil
Finely chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
* I found three brands of no-sugar-added apricot jam at my grocery store, including the ubiquitous Smuckers.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, bread crumbs, onions, hoisin sauce, egg, garlic, gingerroot, sesame oil, salt and pepper (using your hands works best). Form mixture into bite-sized meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wetting your hands helps prevent the chicken mixture from sticking to them. (Ground chicken and turkey are kinda sticky!) You should end up with about 40 meatballs.
Place meatballs on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until cooked through. Stir meatballs once, halfway through cooking time, to brown sides.
While meatballs are cooking, prepare glaze. In a 10-inch, deep, non-stick skillet, whisk together jam, soy sauce, lime juice, Sriracha, garlic, gingerroot, and sesame oil. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture is hot and bubbly and jam has melted. Add cooked meatballs and mix gently, ensuring every meatball is coated with sauce. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds, if using. Serve hot.
Makes about 40 meatballs
1.5 g total fat (0.4 g saturated fat)
3.6 g protein
3.3 g carbohydrate (0 g fiber, 2.6 g sugars)20 mg cholesterol
121 mg sodium
Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup
We all know that guy who says soup’s not a meal unless it contains meat, right? I can see you nodding! I guarantee you won’t hear any “where’s the beef?” complaints when he eats this feast of a soup for dinner, since it’s meaty, manly and mighty filling. Plus, it really does taste like a stuffed bell pepper…only much easier to make!
1 tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ lbs (568 g) extra-lean ground beef
1½ cups diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1 ½ tsp dried marjoram
1 ½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried fennel seeds (optional)
4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) petite-cut tomatoes (with liquid)
1 ½ cups tomato sauce (see Kitchen Whizdom)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste
2 cups cooked brown rice
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add beef. Cook and stir until beef is no longer pink and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers, onions and garlic. Cook and stir until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 more minutes.
Add marjoram, chili powder, basil and fennel seeds, if using. Cook and stir for one more minute. Add beef broth, tomatoes with their liquid , tomato sauce and pepper. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. (I almost always add salt at this point, depending on the broth I use.)
If serving immediately, stir in cooked rice, then ladle soup into serving bowls. If you’re planning on eating the soup over the course of a couple days, keep the rice separate, otherwise it’ll soak up all the broth.
Makes about 12 cups soup
6.6g total fat (2 g saturated fat)
16 g carbohydrate (2.4 g fiber, 4.6 g sugars)
26 mg cholesterol
222 mg sodium
I don’t like big pieces of vegetables in this soup, so I dice the onions and bell peppers small and use “petite-cut” canned tomatoes (usually with green peppers, celery and onions added … a good compliment to this soup). You can use plain tomato sauce or your favourite, tomato-based pasta sauce for extra flavour. For example, I often use Classico brand Sweet Basil Marinara in this soup. By the way, the chili powder doesn’t make the soup taste like chili. It just makes it taste BETTER! Use the fennel seeds if you like the mild black-licorice taste of Italian sausage. Those with fennel phobia should leave it out.