By Rachel Sircy
So, in early 2017 I discovered, thanks to some lab tests, that I had high cholesterol. I resolved to start taking charge of my health. Well, the truth is that I did and I didn’t take charge of my health. I was pretty good, by which I mean that I was better than I had been in previous years and I started taking fish oil. I never did get a good exercise routine down, which I think is due in part to the fact that I absolutely hate the aerobics dvd that I have. That is no fault of the exercise program on this dvd, it’s just that I hate doing exercises that hurt and make me sweat in the first place and I really hate doing them if I’m stuck indoors watching a video of people who are way, WAY too excited about “sweatin’ the fat away.”
Long story short: I’m still overweight and my numbers, while much better than last year – they were only borderline high as opposed to high – are still not where I’d like them to be. As you know, I’ve been trying to focus on food as medication lately. And, according to what I’ve read about the latest research in lowering cholesterol is that you have to change your diet first and then begin to exercise, not the other way around. Anyway, I’m trying to avoid too much meat and when I do eat meat, I try to pair it with dark, leafy green vegetables. Here are two of the tastiest recipes where I’ve managed to do that. Hopefully they will be of use to someone out there who is trying to lower cholesterol (or blood pressure or whatever) without sacrificing flavor:
- Sausage and Kale Soup: This recipe is slightly adapted from the Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups book that my mom gave me some years ago. Basically, the adaptation is that I add twice as much broth as it originally calls for, but if you like less liquid, you can always add less. It is my family’s go-to soup for any time we don’t feel well. Somehow it always makes your recovery time shorter if you have a cold. It’s a great cold weather soup, but I like it the year round. And, given the weather we’ve been having lately, you might want a good cold weather option for the dinner table:
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed.
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1 lb fresh kale trimmed and chopped (I always get the bags of pre-washed and chopped kale from the grocery store, it makes my life so much easier)
- 1 15oz can Cannellini or Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ lb fully cooked Kielbasa (Polish Sausage)
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add 4 cups of the broth and the potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. When potatoes are tender, slightly mash them with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
- Add the kale (don’t freak out if it seems to take up all the room in your pot, just mash it down), the beans, the sausage and the remaining 4 cups of chicken broth. Boil with the lid on until the kale is tender.
This soup is absolutely delicious. Below is a picture of it as I was finishing cooking some this afternoon. The picture is a bit hazy because of the steam coming off of the pot. It’s going to be so good later…
- Mediterranean Tuna Salad: This salad is one that I found on the internet years ago and it is really, really good. I think it’s from some Mediterranean Diet cookbook. I’m not a seafood lover, I’ll be honest, but this salad has made me able to eat tuna. You can also substitute canned salmon in place of the tuna – I sometimes do this because I find salmon a bit less fishy than tuna. If you use tuna, I would recommend the solid white albacore. Also, my husband can’t stand mayonnaise and so sometimes I just mix a can of tuna with the dressing for this salad (olive oil, lemon juice and grainy Dijon mustard) and he can use it to make a tuna sandwich.
- 2 5oz. cans water packed tuna
- 1 15oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
- 1 ½ cup diced cucumber
- 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped (honestly, I don’t always chop it)
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 3 TBS grainy Dijon mustard
- 3 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Coarse ground pepper to taste
- 1 TBS capers (optional)
- Avocado chunks to garnish (optional)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir in the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Season with pepper and add capers and avocado if desired.
Seriously, how easy is that recipe? It’s just chop and mix. It’s also delicious and it’s good for you. Here’s a picture of the finished product…