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Help for eating healthfully in the new year

By Lisa Abraham
Beacon Journal food writer

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Braised halibut with tomatoes and orzo. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal photo illustration)

As the saying goes: You are what you eat.

So if you’d like there to be a little less of you (or at least a little less around your middle) this is the perfect time of year to change your eating habits for a fresh start and a refreshed you.

If you don’t want to join a diet program, you still don’t have to go it alone. This is the time of year when new healthful cookbooks flood the market, offering plenty of practical help on how to adopt better eating habits.

Here are five basic tips to help jump-start any healthful eating plan:

• Eat more fruits and vegetables.

• Eat more whole grains and fewer “white” carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, sugar).

• Control your portions.

• Eat less meat and more vegetarian meals or fish, especially fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, halibut or sardines.

• Eat more nutrient-rich superfoods, including blueberries, nuts, leafy greens (spinach and kale) and dried beans.

Here are four new books that will help to get you started.

Smart Chefs Stay Slim by Allison Adato (Penguin, paperback, $16).

Adato is an editor for People magazine, who, after being assigned to cover restaurants and famous chefs, began putting on weight.

For her book, she interviewed more than 30 chefs (Michael Symon, Wolfgang Puck, Rick Bayless), asking them about their relationships with food and eating.

The result is a book of more than 90 lessons she learned from some of the country’s most famous chefs on eating, overeating, and having a healthy relationship with food.

Small Changes, Big Results by Ellie Krieger (Clarkson Potter, softcover, $16).

This is the revised version of Krieger’s 2005 bestselling original. Fans of Krieger’s Food Network show Healthy Appetite will recognize her “usually, sometimes, rarely,” food lists.

The book offers a 12-week blueprint for adopting a more healthful lifestyle, including 65 recipes. The emphasis is on healthful eating and cooking, but there also are exercise and lifestyle tips for creating a more balanced life.

Meatless from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson Potter, softcover, $25).

While this is essentially a vegetarian cookbook, it’s a great tool for those who want to adopt Meatless Mondays for environmental reasons or who just want to skip meat a few times each week as a way to cut calories and fat and ramp up their vegetable intake.

Martha Stewart’s cookbooks provide some of the most well-tested recipes you’ll find in cookbooks today. With more than 200 recipes, this book offers the gamut from casual meals to dishes fit for company, with crisp color photography, piles of whole grains and of course, plenty of vegetables.

Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook (Wiley, hardcover ringbinder, $29.99).

Even if you have no desire to pay for membership, attend meetings or count points, the Weight Watchers plan still has a lot to offer as one of the most successful diet programs ever.

This book is packed with more than 500 recipes for low-calorie, high-flavor dishes, including a whole chapter on slow-cooker meals, which is new to this edition. And there are plenty of desserts too.

Here’s a recipe from each to help get your new year started with some healthful eating.

BRAISED HALIBUT WITH

TOMATOES AND ORZO

2 tsp. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed

1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed tomatoes

1¾ cups water

1 cup orzo

12 pitted kalamata olives, halved

1 tbsp. capers, drained

¼ tsp. black pepper

1 halibut fillet (1¼ lb.) skinned

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add celery and fennel seeds; cook, stirring, until celery is slightly softened, about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, water, orzo, olives, capers, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper to skillet; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes.

Season halibut with remaining ⅛ teaspoon of pepper. Nestle fish into tomato mixture; simmer, uncovered, until fish is just opaque in center and orzo is tender, about 12 minutes. Cut halibut into 4 equal pieces.

Makes 4 servings.

Editor’s note: Feel free to substitute a less-expensive fish, such as cod, if halibut is too pricey for your budget.

Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

JOE BASTIANICH’S WHITE BEAN

STEW WITH SWISS CHARD

AND TOMATOES

2 lbs. Swiss chard, large stems discarded and leaves cut crosswise into 2-inch strips

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper

1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped

1 (16 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Salt

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the chard and reduce the heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the greens and gently press out excess water.

In the same saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is golden, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the beans and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the chard and simmer until the flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Makes 4 side dish servings.

Smart Chefs Stay Slim (adapted from Joe Bastianich), Allison Adato

WILD RICE SALAD

¾ cup wild rice

¼ cup brown rice

1 cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup dried cranberries

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped scallion

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced (optional)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Stir in the wild rice and brown rice, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on baking tray and toast for 5 minutes.

Transfer the cooked rices to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the toasted nuts, cranberries, parsley and scallion.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic, if using. Pour over the rice mixture. Stir to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.

Small Changes, Big Results, Ellie Krieger

KALE LASAGNA

2 bunches kale (about 2 lbs. total), tough stems removed

16 oz. (2 cups) part-skim ricotta cheese

1 large egg

¾ tsp. coarse salt

6 cups tomato sauce

16 no-boil whole-wheat lasagna noodles (10 oz.)

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 oz.)

10 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Crushed red pepper flakes, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash kale; drain, leaving water clinging to leaves. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add kale; cover and cook until tender and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let cool slightly; squeeze out excess moisture. Coarsely chop; you should have 4 cups.

Combine ricotta, egg and salt in a medium bowl.

Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer 4 noodles over sauce. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture and kale over noodles and sprinkle with one-third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat layering (noodles, sauce, ricotta mixture, kale, and Parmigiano-Reggiano) two more times. Add final layer of noodles and spread with remaining sauce; arrange sliced mozzarella on top.

Cover dish with parchment, then foil. Bake until sauce is bubbling and noodles are tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Uncover and cook until cheese is lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving, garnished with red pepper flakes.

Makes 8 servings.

Meatless, from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living

Lisa Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or at labraham@thebeaconjournal.com. Find me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @akronfoodie or visit my blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/lisa.