Thursday, January 30, 2014

Can Fries Be Healthy? You Bet!
Try These Garlicky Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Serve With Spicy Red Pepper Aioli

Garlicky sweet potato fries make a great Super Bowl snack.

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Game Day can be Healthy
I've been working on a few healthy recipes this week for Super Bowl Sunday. I was inspired by the many TV commercials that are pushing their chicken wings, candy, chips, soda, and other crap that is usually associated with watching football. There are so many delicious recipes that you can serve at football parties, I wouldn't think of serving my guests the types of food (and I use the term loosely) I've seen advertised.

Now I'm not suggesting that you pass around kale smoothies or do a group liver cleanse on game day. I'm just saying that there are plenty of fun dishes that you and your family can enjoy without regret. After all, you probably made New Year's resolutions to get back in shape, shed the holiday weight, and take better care of yourself in 2014. It's still January and way too soon to break out the Velveeta Queso dip!

Healthy Fries - an Oxymoron?
It's game day, let's splurge a little with some fries dipped in that delicious, Spicy Red Pepper Aioli I shared with you on Tuesday. But can fries be healthy? Well, maybe not as healthy as a raw salad, but let's say these are much healthier than traditional ones.

By using sweet potatoes rather than russets, you get twice the fiber and tons of vitamin A. Each ounce of the orange spud provide 79% of the daily required vitamin A while russets provide none. 

Baking versus deep frying produces fries with a lot less fat. A four ounce serving of my baked sweet potato fries contain one third the calories and only twenty percent of the fat of regular French fries. Each serving is only 130 calories with only 1/2 gram of saturated fat!

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Garlicky Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 4 servings]
Requires a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil and a large metal cooling rack

1 teaspoon organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and set a metal cooling rack (that is smaller than the cookie sheet) on top of it. Cooking the potatoes on a rack allows you to cook the fries without turning them.

Mix the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl and set aside. Adding a little cornstarch helps the baked fries crisp up.

Cut the sweet potatoes into 3/8 inch fries and place in the bowl. Using your hands, mix until they are completely and uniformly covered with the seasoning.

Mix potatoes with the cornstarch and spices.

Drizzle the oil over the fries and mix them with your hands until they are completely and uniformly covered in oil. Place on the rack leaving enough space between the fries so that they cook evenly.

Place fries on the metal rack over the foil lined cookie sheet.

Place the potatoes in the oven away from the broiling coils. Bake at 425 degrees until they start to brown and look a little caramelized, about 30 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and serve with Spicy Red Pepper Aioli or with ketchup.

A little of this spicy dip goes a long way.

Per serving: 130 calories, 3 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 27 mg omega-3 and 346 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 207 mg sodium.

For additional delicious and health recipe ideas, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen, available on Amazon and iTunes.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vegan Or Vegetarian Spicy Red Pepper Aioli
Spice Up Your Super Bowl Or Downton Abbey Party!

This red pepper aioli will  spice up any dish!

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You'll Love this Aioli
In the past I was never an aioli fan. I usually avoided mayonnaise, a key ingredient of aioli, because it's too high in calories and I'd rather use pure olive oil for recipes like salad dressings. But there are some healthier mayonnaises available on the market that I don't mind using in recipes that require it, like this aioli. And this particular recipe is so flavorful that a little goes a long way. 

Whether you are having a party next Sunday to watch the Super Bowl or Downton Abbey, red pepper aioli can spice up any dish. Use it as a dip for Garlicky Sweet Potato fries, or crudités, to top sliders, to spice up sandwiches or wraps, on top of crab cakes or roasted baby new potatoes - or just about any dish that needs a shot of flavor.

Selecting your Mayonnaise
There are so many choices for mayo depending on your dietary tastes, restrictions, and preferences. Spectrum has a very wide selection. Some are vegan and some use eggs. All appear to be gluten free. Here are some of the ones they offer:

* Light Canola, Eggless Vegan (only 35 calories per tablespoon)
* Organic Omega-3 with Flax Oil (100 calories per tablespoon)
* Organic Artisan Olive Oil  (100 calories per tablespoon)
* Organic Mayonnaise with Soybean Oil (100 calories per tablespoon)

Selecting your Spice
You can either blend your aioli with crushed red pepper flakes or stir in a liquid hot sauce after blending the aioli. When you stir in a liquid hot sauce, you can add a little at a time until it reaches the desire spiciness. The chili flakes work better when they are blended in and it's hard to add a few at a time without over processing the aioli. So, for me, I like using a liquid hot sauce.

I've recently become addicted to Piri Piri sauce (an ingredient I mentioned in my annual black-eyed pea recipe a few weeks ago.) Since that post, my girlfriend Margarite has introduced me to yet another brand of Piri Piri, which I must admit is even better than the other one. This one is by Maçarico and is available on Amazon. 

Piri Piri, Portugese hot sauce.
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Spicy Red Pepper Aioli
Vegetarian or Vegan (if using vegan mayonnaise), Gluten Free
Requires a good blender
[makes 1 cup]

8 ounce jar organic roasted red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 cup light or regular mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
Liquid hot sauce (like piri piri) to taste or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Rinse the roasted bell peppers under cold water, removing seeds and blackened skin if any. Drain them on a paper towel and pat dry.

Make sure your peppers are dry or the aioli will be too watery.

Place the roasted red peppers in a blender together with the garlic, mayonnaise, and salt. If using crushed red pepper flakes, place them in the blender with the other ingredients. If you are using liquid hot sauce, do not put in the blender. Blend until smooth.

If using liquid hot sauce such as Piri Piri (instead of crushed red pepper flakes), pour the aioli in a bowl and stir in the hot sauce unit it reaches the desired spiciness. I used 60 drops of Maçarico piri piri hot sauce and Doug thought it was "medium" spiciness although I would say it was a little more than that. 

Refrigerate until needed. Serve on or with any dish that needs spicing up. I like to serve it in a squeeze bottle or on individual resting spoons. 

Serve in squeeze bottle

Or place a small amount on each
individual plate.

Per tablespoon (using Spectrum Light Canola, eggless, vegan mayonnaise): 22 calories, 2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 161 mg sodium.

Per tablespoon (using  Organic Spectrum Artisan Olive Oil mayonnaise, made with eggs): 55 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 166 mg sodium.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Make 2014 Your Healthiest Year Ever!
Set Big Health Goals With Tiny Steps To Accomplish Them

This was taken in 1989 (ignore the crazy perm.)
My 2014 health goal is to start running again.

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It's a New Year
Is there a health issue that is keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest? Are you tired of being tired, overweight, inactive, depressed? Are you feeling as though your calendar has more doctors appointments on it than dinner dates? Are you spending more on medications than vacations? Is there a bad habit that is running and ruining your life? Or are you feeling pretty good but you want to feel fabulous? Now is the perfect time to make a plan to turn things around!

Running - Good for the Heart in More Ways than One
25 years ago I became a runner. I'd like to say I began running for my health, but I actually starting running to attract this hot, young, good looking guy (who is now my hot, young, good looking husband.)

I was already 40 years old at the time and couldn't run around the block. Dancing was always my movement of choice. Throughout my life I took ballet, modern dance, ball room, jazz, anything dance. But I never ran and it's quite different.

Doug and I both worked at Rolm Systems at the time. It was one of the first Silicon Valley campuses that really encouraged exercise (years before the likes of Google.) They had a big, modern workout facility, racket ball courts, a swimming pool, and more. At 40 I was one of the oldest people on campus. All of my employees were these twentysomething-year-old engineers who were incredibly fit and very active in sports. I had just come from IBM corporate headquarters in New York where the demographic couldn't be more different.

I noticed that Doug jogged every morning. He was a soccer player so running came very naturally to him. I can't imagine what made me think I could ever keep up with this fit, 30 year old man, but I was motivated! 

I found a track nearby and started running. I couldn't even make it around once. My heart rate shot up and I thought my lungs were going to explode in my chest. Not a quitter, I started walking a bit, and running a bit. Eventually I made it around the track. I did a little better each day. In fact, twelve weeks later, Doug and I ran Wharf to Wharf together, a six-mile race from Santa Cruz to Capitola! It must have impressed him because we were married less than a year later.

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, I stopped running. At 65, my desire to start running again seems a stretch but certainly not out of the question. It's never too late to get healthier and in better shape!

A New You
I'm always inspired when I think that most of our cells rejuvenate themselves within a year. So no matter what shape we are in (mentally and physically), we could do our very best to make sure we have great nutrition, fresh air, clean water, appropriate exercise, positive thoughts and nurturing relationships. After a single year you could be a whole new you! 

What's Your Biggest Health Goal This Year?
Although people generally have goals for their careers, starting a family, financial goals, etc., they generally don't have a health goal. For me, this is the most significant goal one can have and I always encourage people to pick a health goal - a big one. And then, take tiny steps to achieve it. Goals such as:

Stop smoking

Get your blood pressure down 

Lose 50 pounds

Have better sex (what's healthier that that?)

Adopt a healthy vegan diet

Get off type 2 diabetes medication with diet and exercise

Be able to run a mile, 3 miles, a marathon (whatever is a stretch goal for you)

Beat cancer

Give up your biggest unhealthy food addiction (red meat, soda, fried foods, ice cream)

Learn to control anger or stress

Have more energy

My health goal this year is to be more active and to run again. Ironically, while writing my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen, I spent less time being active and more time indoors creating and testing recipes or sitting on my butt writing. In addition, I crushed a toe a few years ago which led to a painful neuroma. Although it's healed to the point that I can once again walk for long distances, I haven't gotten back to running - the one exercise that makes me feel phenomenal (runners high and all.) When I ran I had a higher energy level, lower body fat, lower cholesterol, and higher spirits. So this is a great health goal for me.

Big Goals, Tiny Steps
Big goals are overwhelming, whether they are health goals, career goals, or others. The best way to start on a BIG goal, is to slice it up into TINY STEPS. Let's use my goal of running.

Tiny Step 1 
Make the goal specific: To finish a local 5K fun run by summer.

Tiny Step 2
Research the local fun runs and pick one. Print out the details and hang them on the wall for inspiration with the date and time. Register for the race.

Tiny Step 3
Put a training plan together. 
For example: 
Week 1: Get good running shoes.
Week 2: Find a cushy running track nearby and/or buy a used running machine with a soft bed.
Week 3: Run/walk 1 mile alternating walking 1/4 mile, running 1/4 mile, walking 1/4 mile, running 1/4 mile. Increase total and running distance incrementally timed out to reach the goal distance of 5K (3.1 miles) by the date of the race.

Not so Tiny Step 4
Develop a physical therapy plan if I have foot pain from my neuroma (chiropractor for orthotics, acupuncture for foot pain, more cushiony running shoes, etc.)

Tiny Step 5
Monitor running plan by week. Adjust plan if necessary but don't give up.

What's Your Health Goal?
What would you like to happen to your health in 2014? Go ahead, say it out loud. Write it down. Jot it on a post it and stick it on your bathroom mirror. Just having and articulating a goal is half the battle. Slice your goal up into tiny steps. Make a plan. Nothing is impossible! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Trip To Australia And New Zealand
Are There Vegans Down Under?

There are 3 kangaroos for every Australian!

I'm Back from Down Under
For the past 25 days Doug and I have enjoyed a trip of a lifetime traveling from Sidney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. Although most of the trip was aboard a ship, we stopped in over a dozen ports where we had the chance to see native animals and sample local foods. I won't bore you with the 750 pictures I took, but here are some things I think you'll enjoy.

After a short stop in Honolulu we arrived in Sydney. It was the week before Christmas so it was bustling. We did all the touristy things, of course, like visiting the beautiful Opera House. Since it is their summer season, there were outdoor markets, street fairs, lots of al fresco dining spots, and street musicians to entertain. Our favorite little spot was Darling Harbor with its many outdoor restaurants that surround the lovely harbor. 

The magnificent Sydney opera house took 16 years to complete.

Darling Harbor, Sydney

From Sidney, we took a ferry over to Manly beach and were impressed by its shark warning system. They are always on the outlook for sharks and when one is sited, a network of sirens go off and the beach is immediately cleared. We happen to be there when this happened. 

While at Manly, we also got to see rare Little Penguins at the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. 

Manly is a breeding habitat for Little Penguins and is one of the last colonies on the mainland of Australia.

After 5 days in Sydney we left on a cruise ship for the rest of our journey. 

Melbourne was our next stop. It was Boxing Day and the streets were really crowded with shoppers. We found our way to Chinatown to eat a wonderful meal. Australian and New Zealand cuisine is very meat- and dairy-centric (so was the food on the cruise ship) so finding a Chinese restaurant, where you can actually find something besides fish and chips, was quite exciting. 

Melbourne's Chinatown dates back to
the gold rush days of the 1850's.

One of our best stops was Hobart, in Tasmania. We happened to be there on the most exciting day of the year when these three things occurred:
The Taste of Tasmania - Tasmania's largest food and wine festival.
A massive street fair.
The end of the Sidney Hobart yacht race.

I would have taken this entire trip just to be at the Taste of Tasmania. For $7 you get a little glass and can go around and taste all the wines at the fair. Our favorite wines were from Moorilla winery. We bought a bottle of their 2011 Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. We also liked the Kelvedon 2011 Pinot Noir. At this point we were trying to figure out how we were going to get all of these home since our suitcases were already stuffed to the gills.

I joined 40,000 Aussies at the Taste of Tasmania.
A total of 200,00 attended during the week.

The street fair, right outside the Taste of Tasmania, was just as busy. Booths lined the streets with food, clothes, pottery, and more. The best thing I had there were the fresh Tasmanian cherries - yummmm!

Tasmania cherries - some of the best cherries I've ever had!

Because of bad weather, the start of the Sydney Hobart yacht race was delayed. Our cruise ship had to leave the port before the race ended and we thought we would miss this great event. But on our way out we passed the winning yacht! Our ship's passengers waived wildly and our captain gave out a bit TOOT as we passed the winner, Wild Oats XI. 
After having had one of the most fun days ever, we headed to New Zealand.

Wild Oats XI, the winner of the 2013 Sydney Hobart yacht race.

New Zealand
On New Year's eve we woke up in Milford sound, a fjord in New Zealand's South island. I can't begin to describe how beautiful and serene it was to float through the fiords.

New Year's eve at Milford sound

After floating through fiords all day, we headed to the quaint little town of Oban on Steward Island. Then it was off to Port Chalmers and we drove to Dunedin to see yellow-eyed penguins, the rarest penguins of them all. 

We were at the beach looking for our little yellow-eyed friends when one emerged from the sea with a tummy full of food to feed his chicks. We followed him up the hill to the dunes where the family waited for dinner. It was quite a hike for the little guy. As soon as he got there his wife then left to go for more food. It was quite a family project to keep the kids fed and guarded.

A yellow-eyed penguin emerges from the ocean.
He starts his journey back to the nest up in the dunes.
It's a long, steep walk but he is determined to feed his chicks.
He feeds his hungry chick.
Now it's mom's turn to go find the next meal.

He was the only yellow-eyed penguin we got to see (besides his wife and kids). Like so many animals in New Zealand, they are endangered and quite rare. Last year 60 were found dead in the sea after an algae bloom. Our tour guide thinks that the pollution from the growing dairy industry (driven by China's demand for New Zealand baby formula) may have caused this. I see this beautiful and relatively untouched country making many of the same environmental mistakes that the U.S. has made and they are beginning to suffer the consequences. 

The seas were too rough to land in Timaru so we sailed to Akaroa. There was lots to see there. We had the most fun at the Giant's House where an artist designed a terraced garden around giant mosaic figures. Here are some of my favorites.

Sculptures at the Giant's House in Akaroa

We then sailed to "windy Wellington", the capital of New Zealand, where we took a tour of their Parliament, a tram up to botanical gardens and then found a great Chinese restaurant. With the Belgium chef on the cruise ship, we continued to yearn for more healthy, vegetable-centric ethnic food in the bigger cities. Wellington was a great place to do that.

The Parliament building
Wellington cable car.

New Zealand Wine Country
As wine growers and wine makers, we were really looking forward to our trip to Picton where we took a tour of seven wineries in the famous region of Marlborough. We were surprised to find that most of their growing and wine making techniques were pretty much the same as what we do here in Sonoma county as we were hoping to pick up a few new tricks. But their wines were lovely and their vineyards were beautiful. I could have definitely spent more time in this amazing region. 
We visited:
Lawson's Dry Hills
Wither Hill (loved their Pinot noir)
Hunter's (run by Jane Hunter, a famous female wine maker) 
Giesen Wines (had a lovely Riesling and a restaurant where we ate lunch)
Seresin Estate (a biodynamic vineyard that also sells the health promoting Manuka honey)
Spy Valley (had amazing views)
Drylands (who also sells Kim Crawford brand)

A lovely day in Marlborough wine country in New Zealand
We hired the Bubbly Grape Tour bus to take us around.
Jonathan did a GREAT job!!
Beautiful views at Spy Glass winery
Our tour was greeted by a lovely lady at Drylands

We left wine country and sailed to Kaikoura where we found amazing Thai food! Then we headed to Rotorua to see the famous geothermal area of Wai-o-tapu considered one of the most active volcanic areas in the world. 

Geiser at Wai-o-tapu

We also went to Whakarewarewa, a living Maori village. The Maori's actually live over the geothermal area and use the heat for cooking and the hot mineral waters for bathing and healing.

Living Maori village of Whakarewarewa.

Kiwi 360
While in Rotorua, we visited a kiwi farm and tourist area called Kiwi 360. New Zealand has long been famous for its prolific kiwi crop. But like so many crops in the world being threatened by a mysterious disease,  kiwi are now at risk because of a bacterial kiwifruit vine disease. This kiwifruit canker, called Psa, originated in China and has spread to over 1,000 orchards in New Zealand. 
I got to walk under a canopy of kiwi, taste fresh fruit and drink kiwi wine (of course that made it in the suitcase along with all the Tasmanian wine).

I walked under a canopy of beautiful kiwi
Kiwi must be protected from the wind and
are grown next to tall hedges
Kiwi tasting at Kiwi 360

Auckland, our Final Destination
We left the ship in Auckland and sadly said goodbye to the many new friends we made on our voyage. But we had two exciting days ahead in Auckland!

The Seabourn Odyssey in the Port of Auckland.

We quickly jumped on a ferry to Devonport for a quick tour of this beautiful historic island. 
That night we found a massive street fair and music event and a row of restaurants along the wharf that was a mile long. I've got to say, both the Aussies and the Kiwis know how to party on a Friday night. 

The next day we jumped on another ferry, this time to Waiheke Island. Unfortunately, all the tours were filled and, for the first time in almost a month, we had to rent a car and take our chances of driving on the other side of the road - yikes! 

Waiheke Island is famous for its wineries but since we had to drive, we only stopped in a few places. Our first was a beautiful winery/restaurant called Casita Miro where I had the loveliest meal on the trip.

Waiheke island vineyards

Casita Miro
The bread was amazing - with a delicious romesco sauce.
A salad of greens and fruit and a
rice dish with fresh veggies.

We drove to the other side of the island and visited Man O' War, a vineyard on the water. It was the only tasting room where I've seen people pull up in their boats! It was laid back and people with their children came there to picnic, hang out and even teach their children how to play cricket. 

Man O' War got its name because it is on the part of the island where Captain Cook and his men came to get supplies and wood for the mast of war ships.

Man O' War vineyard

A young New Zealand boy learns cricket with grandma
while mum and dad taste wine

Are There Vegans Down Under?
I live in Northern California in the little hippie town of Sebastopol where I have no problem eating a plant-based diet. I'm not a strict vegan but I'm very allergic to dairy. I must admit, it was tough finding dairy-free meals on this trip. Although there were many vegetarian options in the larger cities in Australia and New Zealand as well as on the ship, most of them contained dairy. When you saw (v) on a menu, it meant "vegetarian" not "vegan" like it does in California. In fact, I didn't even see the word "vegan" on a menu in the month I was there. So If you are a strict vegan traveling to this part of the world, your best bet is to find ethnic restaurants such as Thai, Chinese, and Indian. But don't let eating difficulties keep you from visiting these incredible countries! 

Amazing Experience
We were so lucky to be able to take a trip like this and meet the wonderful and friendly people in Australia and New Zealand. To experience the untouched and breathtaking coastal towns and see rare animals in their natural habitats was an indescribable experience. We loved the big cities like Sydney and Auckland and the tiny towns like Oban. One thing is for sure - we would LOVE to go back some day.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

My Annual "Good Luck" Black-Eyed Pea Recipe
Black-Eyed Pea, Kale, And Polenta Soup
Vegan And Gluten Free

It's a Southern tradition to eat black-eyed peas
on New Years day for good luck.

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My Annual Lucky Recipe
I hope my lucky black-eyed pea recipes have been bringing you good luck over the years! 

I was dining at Peter Lowell's, my favorite local restaurant, and saw they had a kale and polenta soup on the menu. Unfortunately it had a bit of dairy in it so I couldn't taste it, but it  inspired me to create today's recipe. I had never thought of adding polenta to thicken a soup but it's a great idea.
For those of you who avoid GMO corn, you can get organic polenta which means it cannot contain any GMO ingredients. Bob's Red Mill and de la Estancia offer organic, non-GMO polenta.

This years recipe is a hearty soup that would be a great addition to your New Years day buffet or would make a great half-time meal. You can prepare it early in the day or even the night before. 

Spice up your Life with Piri Piri
I was recently introduced to piri piri (pronounced pee-ree pee-ree and Swahili for "pepper pepper"), a sauce originally made from the African birds eye chili pepper, that was brought to Mozambique and Angola by the Portuguese. It's a great accompaniment to this soup and almost anything that enjoys a little spicing up!

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Black-eyed pea, kale, and polenta soup
Vegan, Gluten Free (if using GF polenta)
[makes 8 servings]

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups destemmed and sliced kale
6 cups vegetable broth
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup organic polenta
salt and black pepper to taste
Piri piri,or your favorite hot sauce to taste (optional)

Pick over the peas to remove rocks or dirt. 
In a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven or large soup pot, cover the black-eyed peas with water and bring to a boil. Boil peas for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for an hour. Rinse and drain the peas in a colander. Rinse and dry the pot.

Heat the oil in the Dutch oven or soup pot and cook the onions, celery, and carrots until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.

Stir in the kale and then the black-eyed peas. 

Add broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Slowly stir in the polenta. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, until the peas and polenta are cooked, about 45 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with piri piri or your favorite hot sauce, if desired.

Per serving: 231 calories, 3 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 122 mg omega-3 and 513 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber, and 59 mg sodium (using no-salt-added tomatoes and before the addition of salt to taste)