Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Does “Diet” Mean?

 A new year, a new you! Another chance to make changes, try new things, and maybe even start over. When it comes to healthful eating, January is THE month for fresh starts! And Lorelle Del Matto is just the right person to talk to when it comes to inspiration for this. She’s a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Biology-Nutrition. Her professional background includes test kitchen and consumer affairs management, nutrition and culinary instruction, recipe and product development, writing, and work as a media spokesperson. On her website,, Lorelle provides healthful recipes and evidence-based information to inspire others to “savor the art of healthy eating.” In this guest blog post for, Lorelle offers practical tips to make 2013 your healthiest year ever and ideas for adding more #RecipesForHappiness to your Recipe Box.

Deprivation is rarely satisfying or sustainable. Now that we’re a couple of weeks into January, most people have dropped the extreme weight loss “diet.” That’s actually a good thing. I think of diet as a “manner of living,” based on the Greek origin of the word, which gives it a year-round perspective.

I counsel people to focus on enjoying a healthy lifestyle rather than weight loss—make small changes, one or two at a time, that are sustainable. Small changes add up, and weight loss, if that’s your goal, often follows naturally.

My passion for cooking stems directly from a healthy appetite and unending curiosity about “all things food.” What draws me to is the community of people who love to cook and share their experiences in recipes, writing and photos. As a food professional, I use Allrecipes to monitor the pulse of home cooks and explore food trends. I often tap the extensive database for personal recipe searches, too.

Here are my tips for indulging yourself in a healthier “manner of living” for 2013:
  • Cook more meals at home. Cooking is therapy, a stress-buster, and a creative outlet. The benefits are for your health; when you take control of the quality of the ingredients, the preparation and design of the meal, it is invariably healthier (and more economical) than dining out.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables; set a target such as 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables daily. Dare yourself, and try a new type of vegetable or a new salad recipe each week.
Ancient Grains Risotto (Photo by Lorelle Del Matto)
  • Unleash your creativity with a greater variety of protein-packed foods. Eat seafood twice a week. Or, try meatless meals based on beans and peas (legumes) which are rich in protein, fiber, zinc, iron, potassium and folate. I stock my pantry with a rainbow of lentil varieties—from red to orange and dark green— because they require no soaking and cook quickly.
  • Vow to make sure every recipe you cook this year is a #RecipeForHappiness—something fun, challenging or interesting that will feed your hunger and nourish your body and soul. That’s what cooking should be all about, particularly when you’re the cook.
My first personal #RecipeForHappiness
This year, I'm all about trying new spices. My first recipe for 2013 is Indian-Inspired Spiced Shrimp En Papillotte (pronounced “pa pee-oat,” if French isn’t familiar). In this recipe, shrimp is tossed with a colorful spice paste, scattered over a bed of cooked basmati rice and lentils, sealed tightly in parchment, and baked until the packets puffs. Cooking in parchment brings a little fanfare to the dinner table, there’s the surprise of opening the package to see what’s for dinner. Food cooks inside the parchment paper packet, capturing all the flavors and aromas for the diner to savor when they snip open the packet at the table. The technique is perfect for getting maximum impact from the fragrant spice combinations of India. The meal is light and healthful, but doesn’t compromise on flavors, colors and textures—including a final dollop of cool minty yogurt.

Indian-Inspired Spiced Shrimp En Papillote 

This fragrant, slightly spicy dish is fast to prepare on a weeknight if you make the brown rice and lentils in advance. The mint-infused yogurt serves as a cooling accent. I use a rasp-style grating tool to finely grate the ginger and garlic. If you use shrimp that’s larger than the 31-40 pieces per pound size, you may need another minute or two of cooking time.

Makes 4 servings.

Shrimp Mixture
1 pound shelled, deveined shrimp, 31-40 size (small to medium)
1 cup cooked brown basmati rice
1 cup cooked lentils (French lentilles de puy preferred)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/4 cup diced carrot
Parchment paper
4 thin slices fresh lime, halved to half-moons

Spice Paste
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Minted Yogurt
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons very thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
Pinch of sea salt and sugar, optional

1. If shrimp are frozen, thaw in a colander placed over a bowl in the refrigerator to drain liquid. Pat shrimp dry on paper towels.
2. In a bowl, combine ingredients for Minted Yogurt; place in refrigerator to chill.
3. In a bowl, combine ingredients for Spice Paste; add shrimp and stir to coat shrimp thoroughly.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the rice, lentils, green onion and carrot.
5. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat oven to 400°.
6. Cut four sheets of parchment paper into 15-x-22-inch pieces. Fold each piece in half lengthwise. With a pencil, mark half of a heart on each folded piece, making the fold the center of the heart. Open up parchment hearts. On one side of each heart, spoon about 1/2 cup rice mixture, dividing the mixture evenly between the four sheets. Spread shrimp mixture over rice. Top each mound of shrimp with a lime slice. Fold paper on unfilled side of each heart over the filling. To seal packets, start at the center of each heart and fold down about 1/2-inch of paper; continue by making small, overlapping folds around the edge of each heart. Press each fold firmly and crease the edge so packets are very tightly sealed and will not open during baking.

Shrimp on parchment paper heart before baking (Photo by Lorelle Del Matto) 
7. Place packets on two large baking sheets. Bake 13 to 16 minutes in preheated oven, switching position of sheets halfway through cooking, until packets are puffed and fragrant. Shrimp is cooked when (after snipping open packets) flesh is opaque throughout.

Parchment package with sealed edges in oven. (Photo by Lorelle Del Matto)

8. To serve, place packages on serving plates and snip open with scissors. Serve with spoonfuls of Minted Yogurt.

Package opened after baking (Photo by Lorelle Del Matto)

What will your first #RecipeForHappiness be in 2013?