It doesn’t take any psychic powers to predict what you’ll be doing on New Year’s Day. In addition to eating and drinking something deliciously soothing to restore you after last night’s celebrations, and possibly watching one of the big parades happening around the country, you’re probably seeing or hearing TV or radio reports or reading news articles about New Year’s resolutions.
And you’re thinking something like, ‘Oh, no, not again! How am I going to keep my resolution this year to cook and eat more healthily?’
I’ve made that resolution myself, year after year. In the past, I only had limited success, complicated by the fact that my job involves cooking and eating great food every day.
Over the past few years, though, I’ve come up with a solution that works for me, and as a result, I’ve managed to maintain a healthy weight and feel more fit and active than I have in decades — all without giving up food that’s both enjoyable and satisfying. The approach involves making simple, smart changes in the kitchen, at the table and in my exercise routine, and I go into the details in a new book I’ve got coming out two months from now, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy.
But, for the sake of helping you with your own resolutions right now, I thought I’d share one of my longtime favorite recipes that embodies a healthy change easy enough for anyone to follow: Increase the quantities of fresh vegetables you eat every day.
By making that one simple change, you increase the likelihood that you’ll shed pounds and feel better. Why? I could go on at length in response. But the shortest way to put it is that fresh vegetables fill you up with fewer calories, while also providing a wealth of essential nutrients. Not to mention, of course, that if you start with great produce and cook it simply, it tastes wonderful, providing the pleasure and satisfaction we all crave in the food we eat.
Look for ways to add more vegetables to the main courses you make for yourself at home, decreasing — but not eliminating — the portion size of animal proteins. And, at least once a week, aim to make vegetables the star of your meal.
My longtime favorite recipe for pasta with fresh vegetables, which I share here, is a great example of how easy, and delicious, such a change can be. Feel free to substitute any fresh farmers-market vegetables you prefer. To add even more healthy, filling fiber to your diet, use whole-grain pasta.
Make this recipe your own. Then use it as a starting point for transforming your own eating in 2014.
Have a happy, healthy new year!
PASTA WITH BROCCOLI, PEAS, MUSHROOMS AND TOMATOES
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as an appetizer
1/2 pound small broccoli florets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound frozen baby peas
1/2 large red, yellow or orange organic bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, deveined and diced
1/4 pound organic button mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound dried fettuccine or other pasta ribbons
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl three-fourths full with ice cubes and water, and set it on a counter near the stove.
When the water comes to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of the salt and then the broccoli. Cook just until the broccoli’s color brightens, 30 seconds to 1 minute; then, with a slotted spoon or a wire skimmer, remove the broccoli and transfer to the ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute; then drain in a colander, and transfer the peas to the ice water with the broccoli. Leave the vegetables to chill for 1 to 2 minutes; then drain well, and transfer them to paper towels to soak up excess moisture, patting them dry. Set aside.
Bring a pasta pot filled with water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch frying pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. As soon as the oil is hot enough to swirl freely in the pan, quickly add the bell pepper and mushrooms, then the broccoli and peas. Toss or stir the vegetables briskly in the pan to heat them through thoroughly without browning, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until the juices thicken slightly and the vegetables are tender-crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and keep warm.
Meanwhile, as soon as the water in the pasta pot has come to a full boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt, and then add the pasta. Cook until al dente, tender but still slightly chewy, following the manufacturer’s suggested cooking time.
Drain the pasta, and immediately add it to the vegetable mixture in the pan, tossing well. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Serve immediately, garnishing with parsley. Pass Parmesan at the table for those guests who’d like to add a little to their portions.