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Cooking for One: 'Eating by colors' a missed opportunity

Thursday, September 27, 2001

By Marlene Parrish

Here's a perfect example of why I'm not rich. I get the right idea, OK, but at the wrong time. Or I have a brainstorm and then do nothing about it.

Marcia Zimmerman is making buckets of money touting her new book, "Eat Your Colors: Maximize Your Health by Eating the Right Foods for Your Body Type." Well, maybe as far back as when Teddy Kennedy was an altar boy, I've been touting the same thing. Eat color, eat healthy.

But Zimmerman acted; got a whopper advance, wrote a book and rode off on a publicity tour. What did I do? I wrote 500 words and got an "Attagirl" from my boss. Here's an excerpt from my Cooking for One column from May 1998:

"So instead of geometric shapes like square meals and food pyramids, I go for colors and textures. I figure that if, say, every two or three days I eat something red, orange, yellow, light and dark green, white and brown, I'm covering the vitamin spectrum. And if every two or three days I eat something crisp, soft, crunchy, mushy and chewy, I'm covering a wide range of textures. I never worry about balancing a meal at one sitting. In two or three days, all of my food and fiber needs come full circle.

"You might want to try this system, too, because most folks who cook for one tend to eat odd and incomplete meals and skip one altogether every now and then.

"The color and texture system is also a good way to teach toddlers, and the color-texture system of food choices is good, too, when working with aging folks. If your parents are getting on in years, they've already lost a good deal of their ability to smell and taste, both critical for the enjoyment of food. Sight and touch can up the ante in the sensory department. The more you can remind them of color and texture, the better the odds of their eating well."

So, no matter whose words you read, in a book or in a newspaper, eating brightly colored food is a good idea. (I wish somebody would tell me how to parlay a three-paragraph thought into an entire book.)

With September, we've just entered the orange season.

Squashes are ready for prime time; they are easiest to enjoy when baked. Add a salad and there's a good, simple dinner. Pumpkins usually end up in pies for most of us, but remember to roast the seeds for a snack.

Carrots are good anytime. Munch the baby ones raw, or roast them on a baking tray in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes for a deep caramelized flavor.

For a carrot quickie made on top of the stove, try this: Cook a few handfuls of baby carrots in enough salted water to cover until tender, then drain. Drain and chop a small can of pimentos. Place the carrots in a saute pan along with 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil and toss to coat. Add the chopped pimientos and about 1 tablespoon of chili sauce. Heat through, and season to taste. This brilliant red-orange dish is a nice sidekick to roasted chicken.

Sweet potatoes can make an almost perfect meal. Just bake and top with butter. Or try this saute. Cook a whole sweet potato in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes. Let cool, cut into 1/4-inch dice. Saute a small onion and half a green or red pepper, both chopped, in a little olive oil. Add the diced sweet potatoes and cook until the potatoes begin to brown and crisp. Top with a fried egg if you like, or serve the sauteed vegetables with salad.

Try this Asian-leaning, all-orange-all-the-time dinner featuring salmon and sweet potatoes. It's delicious, healthful and easy. The recipes are adapted from Rozanne Gold's "Entertaining 1-2-3."

Teriyaki Salmon with Scallions

    Two 6-ounce center-cut salmon fillets, skin on
    1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
    1 bunch scallions
    Butcher grind black pepper
    1 teaspoon olive oil

Place salmon in bowl or shallow casserole. Cover with teriyaki sauce. Marinate for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, trim roots from scallions. Trim half of the scallions so that each scallion has only 1 inch of green on top. Place trimmed scallions in nonstick skillet with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook until scallions are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

Remove salmon from marinade. Reserve marinade. Press 1/4 teaspoon black pepper into skinless side of each salmon fillet. Heat a nonstick skillet. Add the olive oil. Put salmon, skin side up, in pan and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Turn over and cook 2 more minutes.

Meanwhile, finely dice remaining scallions so that you have 1/4 cup. Add to reserved marinade. Add marinade and 2 tablespoons water to salmon. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until salmon is cooked as desired. Serve immediately with boiled scallions on the side. Makes 2 servings.

Ginger Sweet Potatoes with Orange

    2 sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
    1 juice orange
    1-inch piece of fresh ginger
    Salt to taste
    1 tablespoon butter, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes and jab a hole in the top of each. Place on an oven pan and bake about 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, grate the zest from the orange and set aside. Squeeze the orange to make 1/3 cup juice; set aside. Using a small, sharp knife, peel ginger and mince. You should have about 2 tablespoons.

Peel the hot sweet potatoes and place the flesh in a bowl or pot. Mash the potatoes and add the orange zest, juice, ginger and enough salt to season brightly. Do not add pepper as the ginger provides enough heat. Butter isn't necessary, but if you like the richness it gives, add some. Makes 2 servings.

Marlene Parrish can be reached by e-mail at marleneparrish@earthlink.net.

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