Food for Thought 

Two recipes that are easy, healthy, and tasty.

Learning how to cook is always such a hit-and-miss experience. It requires very patient and tolerant people around you, who are willing to wait long, hungry hours while you figure out just how long to cook lentils or bake a 10-pound roast.

I was born into a family of very understanding people. There was one time, though, when I decided to make garlic bread with roasted garlic. I found a recipe and proceeded to follow the directions to roast an entire head of garlic. As I started to spread the soft white garlic meat onto a loaf of French bread, my mom suddenly got up from the kitchen table. "You are using way too much garlic," she said. I adamantly declared I wasn't, I had followed the recipe, and it was going to be amazing. She was still skeptical, but, luckily for me, the garlic bread ended up being delicious. The garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper all saturated the white bread.

Trying out a recipe that uses an entire head of garlic takes some faith and some guts. Sometimes, making healthy eating choices is the same way. You know you want to eat healthy, you try to eat healthy, but everyone else is going for that Swiss cheese and bacon hamburger with a side of fries. So why not you?

Subway has these great commercials going right now. A guy asks his co-workers if they want him to bring back lunch. The co-workers are all gung ho and start putting in their orders. "I'll have the I-ate-so-much-I-just want-to-sleep-for-three-days platter," one guy says. "I'll have a bucket of please-keep-your-shirt-on," says another. They go on and on.

Although the commercial is a good laugh, it also has a more serious message. What we eat is reflected in our bodies. And when you look around, you will see that what we are eating is fat and sugar and lots of it.

The thing that most people miss is that eating healthy doesn't have to mean eating blandly. Take, for example, the two recipes in this article. Both are healthy, low in bad fat, high in flavor, and relatively simple to throw together.

The recipes were adapted from Food for Thought: New Southern Classics Blended with Stories from Celebrated Birmingham Authors, published by the Junior League of Birmingham, Alabama. It's a great read, full of unique recipes and musings on food.

Garlic Stuffed Potatoes

The great thing about this recipe is that it uses no butter or extra salt. All the flavor comes from the garlic and olive oil. You might feel like you are using too much garlic, but roasted garlic is quite mild and creamy in texture. You can easily use a whole head in this recipe and not be overloaded with garlic flavor.

4 medium red potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup soy milk

1 head of garlic

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Rub potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Cut one-quarter inch off the top of the head of garlic. Roast at 275 degrees for one hour. Scoop out potato pulp and save potato skins. Scoop out garlic pulp. In a bowl, combine potato pulp, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, soy milk, Parmesan cheese, and roasted garlic pulp. Stuff potato shells with mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Pecan-Crusted Tilapia

This tilapia is amazingly flavorful and crunchy, but not fried. Much to my surprise, tilapia is a healthy powerhouse. One serving of tilapia has 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of potassium. It also has lots of those good Omega-3 fats and is low in calories. A bit low in taste, too, so that's why you have to do something a little bit fancy with it. Also, tilapia is farmed in the United States and is an easily renewable resource.

½ cup pecan pieces

½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs

2 eggs

¼ cup soy milk

2 tilapia filets (6-ounce each)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Cajun seasoning

Place pecans on cookie sheet; broil for 30 to 60 seconds. Do not burn. Let cool. Beat eggs and milk together. Combine roasted pecans and breadcrumbs. Dry tilapia with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of tilapia with Cajun seasoning. Dip each filet into egg mixture; dip both sides into pecan mixture. Repeat with other filet. Place on greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

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