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EATING well

"Biggest Loser" nutritionist offers some Father's Day treats that are filling and full of flavor

BY CHARLOTTE SUTTON

Personal Best Editor

As the nutritionist for The Biggest Loser, the TV reality show where people lose vast amounts of weight in not a lot of time, you might think Cheryl Forberg is all about results.

And she is — but as she shows in her new cookbook, getting results is about more than just numbers on the scale.

Flavor First (Rodale, $21.99) is a collection of 75 recipes that are healthy and low calorie, but that also are packed with, well, flavor. She explains how to use all manner of herbs, spices, vinegars, sauces and cooking methods to coax the most out of fresh ingredients. She even has a homemade garlic salt recipe for those who think the stuff has to come in jars and taste a little funny.

With full-bodied options like beer-braised pork tacos, we figured Forberg would be a good source for Father's Day dinner ideas, and she didn't disappoint. But she started with a caution:

"It's the kiss of death when you tell them it's healthy,'' she said in a phone interview last week from her home in Napa, Calif.

Plus, she said, don't think hearty ingredients like beef and pork aren't healthy. It's all in the cut you choose, how you prepare it and the portions you serve.

If Father's Day at your house is no time to break tradition, that's okay too. Forberg suggests that you take it slow when it comes to improving your family's diet.

What about all those Biggest Losers and their great results at the scale? "That's not realistic even though it's a reality show,'' Forberg said. "That's (the contestants') fulltime job — losing weight on the ranch.

"For people at home, I try to give them small tips. Start out simple. Try one thing a week and add on. It's not punishing. It's easy, it's fun, it's delicious.''

What should that one thing be? Your pick.

• Try a healthy recipe, either a lighter version of an old favorite or something entirely new.

• Buy a new-to-you fruit or vegetable each time you go to the store (the produce manager can tell you how to prepare it).

• Curious about an ingredient you see in a recipe, say for a grain such as quinoa or an exotic spice? Forberg suggests you buy from the bulk bins. Take your measuring spoons and cups with you and buy only what you need. You can always go back for more if you decide you love the stuff.

• Plan your dinner menus on the weekend, or when you have time to make a grocery list and shop. Otherwise, you're more likely to resort to fast dinners that come in buckets and large flat boxes.

Just don't do everything at once, and don't expect overnight changes.

"Whether or not you want to lose weight, it's all about optimizing flavor and nutrition,'' Forberg said. "You want to get the best nutrient bang for your buck.''

Here are some recipes from Flavor First that Forberg suggested would make good picks for a healthy Father's Day meal.

SPICY BEEF SATAYS

(Editor's note: Sumac should be available at Middle Eastern groceries and well-stocked gourmet and natural food stores, but if you can't find it, substitute finely chopped lemon zest.)

1 pound flank steak, trimmed of any external fat

1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon ground sumac

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided use

Lime wedges

Cut the flank steak across the grain into 16 strips.

Combine the yogurt, lime juice, smoked paprika, sumac, cumin, garlic salt, mustard, allspice and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro in a medium bowl. Add the beef and stir well to coat completely. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Remove the beef strips from the refrigerator and thread them on 16 skewers. Heat the grill to medium and place the skewers on the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side for medium and about 3 minutes on each side for well-done.

Place the skewers on a serving dish. Garnish with lime wedges and the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro.

Makes 8 (2-skewer) appetizer servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 90 calories, 3g total fat (1g saturated), 20mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium, 1g total carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 14g protein.

CHUNKY

ONION DIP

2 1/2 pounds yellow onions, peeled

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon onion powder

4 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

Flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)

Halve the onions lengthwise and then slice them crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick half-rounds. There will be about 4 cups.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the onions are soft and beginning to release their juices. Continue to simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the onions are lightly browned and caramelized. Allow to cool. There will be about 2 cups.

Place the onions in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Transfer half the onions to a bowl. To the remaining onions in the food processor, add the onion powder and process until pureed. Add the cream cheese and yogurt and process just until smooth. Transfer the mixture to the bowl and fold into the chopped onions.

Taste and season as needed. Chill for at least 1 hour. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley leaves, if desired.

Makes 12 (1/4-cup) servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 80 calories, 3g total fat (1g saturated), 5mg cholesterol, 230mg sodium, 11g total carbohydrates (5g sugars), 1g fiber, 3g protein.

BEER-BRAISED PORK TACOS

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped carrot

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 cup beer (any variety)

1 cup Spicy Caribbean Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows), or substitute any store-bought brand of low-sugar barbecue sauce

8 corn tortillas (6-inch diameter)

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Quickly brown the pork and transfer it to a slow cooker. Add the onion and carrot to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the beer and 1 cup barbecue sauce and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the pork.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for about 3 hours. The pork will be very tender and will separate easily with a fork.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm in the oven at a low temperature for about 15 minutes. Serve the pork in the warm tortillas garnished with cilantro. Pass extra barbecue sauce, if desired.

Makes 4 (2-taco) servings

Nutritional information per serving: 340 calories, 5g total fat (2g saturated), 75mg cholesterol, 135mg sodium, 41g total carbohydrates (9g sugars), 6g fiber, 28g protein.

SPICY CARIBBEAN BARBECUE SAUCE

(makes 6 cups)

1 1/2 pounds ripe bananas (about 5 medium)

2 cups water

1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1 medium red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, coarsely chopped

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped prunes

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon each: ground black pepper, ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer mixture to a 3- or 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, over low heat for 30 minutes.

While that cooks, puree

1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 cup water

When barbecue sauce is finished, stir in 2 teaspoons of the chipotle

puree (the rest will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month). People who like their food very spicy may wish to add more of the puree to their tacos.

GARLIC SALT

1 1/3 cups coarse sea salt

2/3 cup garlic cloves, peeled but whole

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour the salt into a food processor. With the machine running, add the garlic cloves through the feed tube and process until the mixture is transformed into a paste, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Transfer the paste to the lined pan, spreading out. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap cut to same size as the pan. Using a rolling pin, try to flatten paste to a thin, even layer. Remove plastic.

Place paste in the oven for about 90 minutes. The goal is to dry the

paste but not cook it, which would change the flavor. You may turn off the oven and leave the pan in overnight to be sure the paste is dry enough.

Return the completely dried paste to the food processor, and process to a uniformly fine consistency. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Nutritional information per teaspoon: 0 calories, 0g total fat, 1,680mg sodium, 0g total carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 0g protein.

All recipes and photos reprinted from Flavor First by Cheryl Forberg. ©2011 by Cheryl Forberg. By permission of Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.

"Biggest Loser" nutritionist offers some Father's Day treats that are filling and full of flavor 06/17/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2011 5:30am]

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