Some people have a difficult time around the holidays and this year, I could relate.

I turned 35 in December and spent my first holiday without parents. Instead of being angry or depressed about aging or outliving my parents, I gave myself permission to enjoy whatever made me happy.

Food and drink!

I ate out on my birthday, went to holiday parties, enjoyed – without guilt – all the ham and pasta, cheese-and-meat platters, dips and spreads and desserts I could handle. Looking back, I survived the month and had a great time.

And grew.

On New Year’s Day I decided it was time to scale it back a bit. Speaking of scale, I bought one. I went on the South Beach Diet and begin an exercise regime.

For two weeks, I eliminated carbohydrates as a way to stabilize my blood sugar and stop cravings for sugar. I ate lean proteins and tons of vegetables. It’s a good diet to kick-start weight loss because the results are evident in about a week. After the strict two-week phase it is time to incorporate carbohydrates and fruits back into the diet.

When it was time to order from the winter co-op I thought I would be unable to get anything except garlic because I thought all the winter vegetables would be packed with sugars and starch. I was wrong. 

I did have to stay away from potatoes, rutabagas, pumpkins, some squash and cooked beets, but there were many other vegetables I could order and enjoy even on the strict phase of the diet.

Cranberry beans, kale, Brussels sprouts, onions and garlic, mushrooms, broccoli, raw beets and turnips, cucumbers, and radish are all great choices. These foods are low on the glycemic index – the scale that rates how quickly carbohydrate-rich foods raise blood sugar levels. Foods that are low on the index produce fewer fluctuations in blood sugar, which helps maintain a steady level of insulin, promotes heart health and decreases the chance of diabetes.

I purchased kale because I just can’t get enough of it, cranberry beans because I’ve never cooked with them before, and salad dressing made from tomatoes and herbs grown on Jordan’s Farm. I always order seafood from Alewive’s Brook Farm and vegetables from Green Sparks.

Haddock, kale and cranberry beans

1 bunch kale, rinsed, ribs removed and loosely pulled apart
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberry beans, soaked 12 hours and boiled until tender
2, 6-ounce pieces fresh cod, haddock or other white fish
olive oil, salt and pepper and chili flake

Over medium-high flame, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick pan.

Add kale and garlic, and a few sprinkles of salt and pepper.

Let simmer for about 4 minutes then add 1/2 cup water to the pan and let kale wilt.

When water has evaporated, add the cranberry beans. Let cook for about 10 more minutes.

Remove the now wilted kale and beans from the heat and add a bit more oil to the pan. Add the fish to the pan and cook about 3 minutes on each side.

Plate the fish, kale and beans and eat up.

Cod, mushroom and miso broth

After a nearly two-hour tooth surgery last week, I couldn’t eat anything but soft foods for a few days. I tried to stay true to the South Beach Diet and found soups were the only way to go. Canned Campbell’s was fine for a while, but after day two, I needed real food. This recipe made me feel human again and tasted like more than just salted water.

2 tablespoons Miso paste (I bought white, but use what you prefer)
1 cup chicken broth, or vegetable broth, or water
1 6-ounce portion of cod or haddock or any white fish
handful of shittake mushroom caps, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons scallion tops, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place fish in a baking pan drizzled with a bit of oil so it won’t stick. Roast fish for about 10-15 minutes or until it is opaque and easily flakes apart. I added a minced garlic clove and about four chopped mushrooms to the roasting pan because it smells good.

Toss the other two garlic cloves and mushrooms in small bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper (and red chili flakes if you like a bit o’ heat) and saute for about eight minutes.

In a medium pan, heat 2 tablespoons of miso paste in the broth until it dissolves.

Pour broth into a bowl, add sauteed mushrooms, garlic and the roasted mushrooms and garlic and fish and top with scallions.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]

Cranberry beans are also known as shell beans. They are mottled and pink and sometimes red when dried, but as soon as they are cooked they lose their color and turn a light brown.

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