Turkey Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet

The white bean cassoulet at a local French Bistro, Martel, is one of my favorite dishes. Even the guarantee of garlic-breath does not deter. And though I like to think it’s healthy – what with the white beans and escarole or spinach – I know in my heart (sorry, pun intended) that this oil-butter-laden dish is, in truth, not a healthy choice.

Fast forward to our annual New Year’s Eve pot luck dinner. A friend whose teenage daughter is coping with very high cholesterol brought a vegetarian white bean cassoulet that was scrumptious. And healthy. Totally amazing.

In fact, this was so good, we all asked our friend Lisa for the recipe. When she replied, “Oh, it’s the cassoulet from Martel,” I snarked something like, “Um, what? You asked for the recipe and they gave it to you?”  Lisa’s puzzled answer was, “No, I just made it.” A month later, I’m still astonished (ok, jealous) that someone who is not a chef can conjure a recipe to match something they’ve tasted.

The next day Lisa emailed us her ‘recipe,’ the vagueness of which made me literally laugh out loud. It seems that someone with a creative mind brilliant enough to replicate a restaurant dish from scratch may not also possess the attention-to-detailedness to scribe it into a recipe others can follow.

With LASIK eye surgery looming (hence my blogging absence the last 2 weeks – all went well, sorry for the lapse!), I needed a few dishes to make ahead & store in my fridge for easy, lo-co lunches and dinners. In the weeks approaching my surgery date, I found a ‘cassoulet’ recipe on Epicurious, and married it with Lisa’s vague ‘White Bean Cassoulet’ directions.  I made it 3 times – sometimes with sausage, sometimes without – until I had a recipe with clear steps.

Though not technically a cassoulet as it is not slow-cooked (about 1/2 hour or 45 minutes), this tastes great and is easy to make. My teenage son even gave the sausage version a thumbs up – though he ate around the beans.

The following is a recipe made with Turkey Sausage (you could substitue chicken sausage – of any flavoring you like) and I included a vegetarian version on my recipes page.

Going Lo-Co Turkey Sausage & White Bean ‘Cassoulet’
(adapted from Lisa Goto & Epicurious) 

  • 1 package Shady Brook Farm Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage Links
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 onions, minced
  • ~1 TB Grapeseed or Olive Oil (could use less)
  • Tomatoes: 1 lb Campari tomatoes, halved (or plum/medium-sized tomatoes, quartered)*
  • 19 oz can of white beans – cannellini (or Navy or Great Northern), rinsed and drained.  Could use 2 cans.
  • 6 oz baby spinach leaves (can use more)
  • Asiago (or freshly grated Parmesan or Romano Pecorino) cheese to taste
  • OPTIONAL: 1 ½  teaspoon mixed chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and/or sage, or ¾ teaspoon mixed dried herbs, crumbled.
    *    The Epicurious recipe calls for a 14 ½ oz can of diced tomatoes including juice – so you could use that, though I’ve not tried it.

Preparation

  1. Mince garlic, onions and slice tomatoes in half.  Rinse and drain beans and wash spinach if needed.
  2. In medium skillet brown sausages in oil over moderate heat, turning them until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  3. In same skillet (add a bit of oil if needed), sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and clear – about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add herbs if using, and the halved tomatoes (or canned tomatoes, with juice) and cook until the tomatoes basically melt down – about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut sausage into 1/4 –inch-thick slices.
  6. Add sausage, beans and cheese and cook until cheese is melted – about 3-5 minutes
  7. Add spinach and keep on heat, stirring, until spinach leaves are lightly cooked.

Enjoy… great with a nice, crusty bread!

 

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Lipitor can cause diabetes in women

NBC Nightly News and MSNBC reported just hours ago that a new, 10-year study by the US government’s Women’s Health Initiative shows that statins (the cholesterol-lowering Rx drugs like Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor) may cause Type 2 diabetes in women over 50. Here are 2 key paragraphs from an MSNBC.com online article, Statins Linked with Small Diabetes Risk:

“A new side effect seems to be emerging for those cholesterol-lowering wonder drugs called statins: They may increase some people’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.” “But more and more doctors are urging otherwise healthy people to use the pills as a way to prevent heart disease. For them, the findings add another potential complication as they consider whether to tackle their cholesterol with diet and exercise alone or add a medication.”

Watch the video here – in it, Brian Williams states, ‘women who take Lipitor or other statin drugs for cholesterol have an approaching 50% greater chance of developing diabetes.’  That is scary indeed – suggesting, at minimum, caution for women who take Lipitor or other statins as a preventative measure.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Of course this does NOT mean that if you take a statin that you should stop – if you have concerns, call your doctor. But for those of us trying to lower cholesterol without statins, this adds fuel to the fire…and hopefully some motivation to keep working at lowering cholesterol with diet and exercise. This is breaking news – I’ll be doing more research and posting here as I learn more but wanted to get this out as soon as possible.  If you have questions or comments, please comment here or on the Going Lo-Co Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Healthier Homemade Peppermint Mocha

I am addicted to Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. But it’s expensive at $4.35 a cup.  And even ordering it lo-co style – skim milk and no whipped cream – it still packs 290 calories and an astonishing 52g of sugar.

While that’s sad, it could be far worse.  Order the full-fat with whipped cream version and you’ll be drinking a scary 440 calories with 55mg of cholesterol and 54g of sugar.

Thank goodness I prefer skim milk – and my barista is kind enough to respond to my ‘skim milk’ request with, “so you want no whipped cream, right?”  To which I can nod – which is far easier than speaking that particular request out loud.

Oh, who am I kidding – I order this so often they don’t even ask – they make it as I get to the register.

But I digress.  So I’ll move on to something really handy. To calculate the impact of that whole milk or whipped cream, check out the Starbucks site. There, you can figure out the calorie, fat and cholesterol in your particular Starbucks vice. Go there only when feeling brave.

There is some good news, though, for all you peppermint mocha fans.  Ordering it with skim milk and no whipped cream, this drink is under 5mg of cholesterol – so at least it’s a decent lo-co treat.

Though all that sugar is distressing…and probably is raising my triglycerides.  Starbucks does offer a ‘skinny’ version – made with sugar substitute. Unfortunately, I despise sugar substitutes.

Thus began my quest to create an at-home recipe to deliver that delicious chocolate-mint coffee punch with less sugar. Plus, finding a way to make this at home preserves my right to this wintry treat once my beloved skim-milk, no whipped decaf peppermint mocha goes off-menu. (Why Starbucks deems this a ‘holiday’ drink is beyond me – it would be delicious all winter.) Oh, and making it at home saves money, too.

So I began experimenting. I tried mint tea (awful) and mint cocoa (flavor was too thin.) Then I found some Andes Thin Mints and that was good, but didn’t dissolve well.

A few more tinkers and I had it – a homemade Peppermint Mocha you can whip up in seconds, that costs mere pennies, and has FAR less sugar – and even fewer calories – than the Starbucks version.

Indeed, mine is so good my son keeps asking why I’ve not blogged about it yet…right after he asks me to make him one.

I make mine in my Keurig one-cup machine (which happily will not raise your cholesterol, as I wrote about in this blog post).  If you don’t have a Keurig, I’m sure it’d work to simply stir these ingredients into a cup of hot coffee.

Karen’s Keurig Lo-Co Peppermint Mocha

  1.  In a large mug, fill bottom with Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips. (You can use Andes thin mints but they don’t melt into the coffee as well). I use about 2 TB. The mints you can buy most anywhere, but the chips I found only at WalMart, my local food store did not stock them. So of course, I bought 5 bags on my last foray to WalMart. You can also find the Andes Baking Chips online.
  2. Add 1 heaping TB of Ovaltine Chocolate Malt. You could probably use hot chocolate mix, but I like that Ovaltine has a malt taste (if you don’t, they have other flavors) and also lists lots of vitamins on its nutritional label.  Am sure those vitamins are immaterial, but…hey, added vitamins is a bonus in my book.
  3. Make a cup of decaf or regular coffee right into the mug and STIR.  Stir a lot to make sure all those lovely chocolate mint bits & Ovaltine are fully dissolved.
  4. Add Silk Soy Creamer – as much as you like to get the coffee the color/lighness you like.  I add A LOT – like 4TB – as I like my coffee light. If you are making this for folks who don’t need lo-co, feel free to use half-half instead – that’s how I make it for my son. And if you haven’t discovered Silk Creamer – check out this post for a great way to reduce cholesterol without sacrificing flavor in your morning cup of joe.

The result? Delicious AND decidedly less sugar!

Using the nutritional values listed on all the ingredients, I calculate my version delivers fewer calories (mine’s about 220 vs Starbucks at 290), which is great. BUT the key – the real winner – is that my version only has bout 20g of sugar, instead of 52!

Less than HALF the sugar, about $0.50 per cup – and I can make one of these treats anytime I want?

I’d call that a minty, delicious lo-co success.

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