Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipe: Penne Cardinale

A few weeks ago I received a flyer from Buca de Beppo, a nationwide chain that, per its Website, offers "fresh, authentic Italian food served family style." One of the menu items pictured was Penne Cardinale, which appeared to be chicken and artichoke hearts in a white sauce, garnished with green onions.

Everything about that appealed to me, so I looked online for a recipe. I found Buca de Beppo's recipe, and decided to try a healthied-up, lowered-fat version, using tofu in lieu of the cream and butter called for in the original recipe. If you're fond of changing up recipes, or if you live with someone who is, then you know first-hand that sometimes, it works out on the first try. Other times, not so much. Happily, this was one of those perfect-on-the-first-try recipes. My family gave it a 5-star rating, and I agree. I hope you'll enjoy it, too!

Penne Cardinale


1 pound penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed into 1" pieces

5 green onions, sliced (reserve a few tablespoons of the green part of the stalk for garnish, if desired)
2 tablespoons bottled minced garlic (or 6 garlic cloves, minced)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (12-ounce) package silken tofu, drained (I prefer Mori-Nu tofu)
1/2 cup milk (I used plain soy milk)
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1/2 cup white wine (I used a mild Chardonnay)

1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese


Prepare penne according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, green onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring often, until chicken is browned and just cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine tofu, milk, and margarine in blender, and puree until very smooth.

Remove skillet from stove. Add tofu mixture, wine, artichoke hearts, and Romano cheese, and stir to combine. Turn stove heat to low. Return skillet to stove, and cook on low, stirring often, until heated through.

In a large bowl, combine chicken mixture and penne, and stir to combine. Garnish with reserved green onions, if desired. Serve immediately.

Chef's Notes: Tofu "cream" sauce doesn't like to be overcooked, so don't hold it on the stove: Serve it as soon as it's ready, and put away the leftovers promptly. When your reheat leftovers, do it gently. The stove top is the safest, but if you have to microwave it, add a little bit of water, use a lower power setting, and stir often.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Recipe: Moroccan Lentil Stew

A student in one of my current sessions remarked that she loves chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), and asked if I had any chickpea recipes to share. I was surprised to discover that I haven't shared this recipe on my blog--it's definitely one of my favorites. Like many Middle Eastern dishes, it's a delightful meld of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors.

Red lentils can be challenging to find, but their color and texture makes them well worth the effort. I purchase them at Rani's, my favorite Indian market. If you don't have a Rani's in your area, you can order from them online at, or look for red lentils at Mediterranean stores, health food stores, or well-stocked larger supermarkets.

Moroccan Lentil Soup


1 (15-ounce) can vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons bottled minced ginger
1/2 -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (optional)


Combine broth, water, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, paprika, turmeric, and cinnamon in slow cooker. If using, place chicken breasts on top of lentil mixture. Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 - 8 hours, until ingredients are tender. (Soup may take 4 - 6 hours to cook on HIGH if chicken breasts are not added.) If using chicken, shred chicken with two forks, and stir well to combine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Making Physical Activity Fun

Did you enjoy physical education when you were in school? I hated PE. Yes, that's right: I was the kid who forgot their tennis shoes, had a stomachache or a headache, etc., etc. Happily, outside of school I had opportunities for activity, and the physical activities I enjoy -- running, walking, skating, tennis, and dancing -- were easy to work into my life, both then and now.

I've been reminiscing about PE, though, because I'm rereading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's excellent book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience," in which he devotes an entire chapter to flow and the body. In short, his perspective is that flow is easily achievable through  physical activity.

That got me thinking: One of the common concerns students and clients present is "How can I get more motivated to exercise?" I still remember being tossed out on the basketball court in middle school, with absolutely no orientation to even the basic skills and rules of the sport. It was miserable! Csikszentmihalyi wouldn't be surprised, as he describes "variety, appropriate and flexible challenges, clear goals, and  immediate feedback" as essentials of the flow experience (page 152).

But typically, when I work with clients and students who don't enjoy physical activity, it's because they're missing a critical element of flow: a sense that the activity they're doing is intrinsically rewarding. Many people equate physical activity with only one positive thing: weight loss. Unfortunately, physical activity does not equal immediate weight loss. If you're exercising only to lose weight, it's easy to get discouraged.

So, if you're using every evasive maneuver in the books to get out of exercise, like I did back in middle school in order to get out of PE, I'm challenging you to answer this question: What did you enjoy doing as a kid? Did you love to climb trees? Roller skate? Play games like hide-and-seek or tag? Dance? Play competitive sports? Write them all down!

Once you've made a list of ways you used to enjoy moving, look at each item. How can you bring some of that into your life now? Be creative, and don't worry about whether you'll burn enough calories, get enough strength training, or work every body part. Just look for ways to have fun while you're moving your body through space. If you're competitive, taking a class, setting a goal for 10,000 steps a day, or running a 5K or 10K might inspire you. If you just wanna have fun, turn on music and dance, take the kids to the pool and play "Marco Polo," shoot hoops, throw around the football, or take the dog for an extra walk. Treat yourself to an indoor climbing session, hit the pool, or play tennis in the Wii. All that's necessary is that you're moving your body through space...and enjoying it, in whatever way works for you.

I'm spending more time in the pool with the kids this summer, and we're racing each other as we walk laps in the water. I have no idea how many calories I'm burning, but we're having fun -- and it's definitely physically demanding! What physical activity can you add into your week, so you'll be having fun while moving your body through space? Share your ideas with us!