Tom Yum Soup with Coconut Milk/Tom Khaa

For Marcy

This is great company soup and it is so easy to make. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare (if the soup stock is already made) and 15 minutes to cook. It has two unusual ingredients in it that are unique to Thai cooking: lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf. When it is fresh, kaffir lime leaf is a brilliant green. This one has been frozen and then defrosted. Another ingredient in this soup is fresh shiitake mushrooms. These are sold dried in Chinese shops but fresh, they are firm yet tender and have a smoky flavor. To prepare, just rinse and cut off the woody stems.


  • 3-4 cups chicken stock (this makes enough soup to serve 2 people – double the recipe for 4 or more)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, lower 1/3 minced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (available fresh or frozen at Asian food stores)
  • 12-14 medium or large raw shrimp, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 small red chilies, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • optional: 1 green and/or red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2-1 can (1-2 cups) coconut milk (add to taste)
  • 1/3 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • optional: additional red chilies or chili garlic sauce (1-2 tsp.)
  • optional: 1 teaspoon brown sugar and a squeeze of lime juice
  1. To make the soup stock, put chicken pieces with the bone in, in a pot of water. Do not boil. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 1-1 1/2 hours. Strain. Discard the chicken pieces.
  2. To prepare the lemongrass, peel off the outer leaves until the part near the roots is pale green or pale yellow in color. Cut off about 1 1/2 inches near the root and discard. Cut off any wilted leaves or parts of wilted leaves. Slice the lemongrass into thin rounds towards the green leaves, leaving about a 3-5 inch stem with leaves.  Process the lemongrass rounds in a food processor until the pieces are fine. 
  3. Pour stock into a deep cooking pot and turn heat to medium-high.
  4. Add processed lemongrass to the pot, including the top part of the lemongrass stalk. Boil for 5 minutes, or until fragrant.
  5. Add garlic, chili, kaffir lime leaves, and mushrooms to broth. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add shrimp, bell pepper, if using, and cherry tomatoes. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and plump.
  7. Turn down the heat to low and add coconut milk plus fish sauce. The soup should be milky in appearance. I used frozen coconut cream that I whizzed in the food processor to get creamy again.
  8. Here’s the fun part: seasoning it to taste! Taste the soup for spice and salt, adding more chili and/or fish sauce (instead of salt) as desired. If too sour for your taste, add 1 tsp. brown sugar; if too salty, add a squeeze of lime juice. Add more coconut milk if you want your soup richer/creamier, or if it’s too spicy for your taste.
  9. Serve at once in bowls with fresh coriander sprinkled on top. From the looks of it, I think this could have done with more coconut milk in the soup.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce

On I found these recipes for tender succulent pork tenderloin served with a sweet-tart grape sauce, crushed red potatoes and a simple sauteed spinach. Delicious!

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce

2-4 cups red or green seedless grapes (4 cups in original recipe)
one 1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin trimmed of fat and silver
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup Madeira wine or white wine (I used rice cooking wine with a teaspoon of sugar)
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons water, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, optional

Roast the grapes. Position racks in the middle and the lower part of the oven. Preheat oven 425˚F. Line a rimmed baking tray with foil and spread the grapes on top in a single layer. Roast the grapes on the lower rack 25-30 minutes. Shift the grapes in the pan occasionally.  Set aside. Do not turn off the oven, as I did.

Prepare to roast the pork. Rub the salt and pepper into the tenderloin. Heat the oil in a pan with an oven proof handle  (I used my grill pan) and sear the tenderloin on the stove top for 1-2 minutes. Put the pan in the oven for 12-14 minutes, turning the tenderloin once. Remove the tenderloin and put it on a cutting board to rest, tenting it with foil.

Make the sauce. On the stove top, heat a large skillet or use the same pan. I used a skillet because the grill pan was too shallow.  I added the shallots to cook in the juices until wilted, about a minute on medium high heat. Add Madeira or wine and cook down, 2-4 minutes, until it is reduced by half. Add broth, thyme, and mustard. Add the grapes. If desired, thicken the sauce with cornstarch mixed with water. To my mind, it didn’t need it and I was perfectly content with the sauce au jus.

According to the recipe, this makes 4 servings but 2 people can easily finish off one tenderloin. One is not very large. The meat was moist and juicy and went very well with the potatoes and spinach. As per the website, one serving (not terribly exact, I know) is supposed to be 299 calories, 6 g fat, 74 mg cholesterol, and 31 g carbohydrates.

Crushed Red Potatoes

6 small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered, with the skin on
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream (the corner grocery only had full fat!)
1/4 cup shallots, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
3 tablespoons low fat milk
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water to an inch above the level of the potatoes. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and crush with a masher or the back of a large spoon.

In a small bowl combine the sour cream, shallots, cilantro, milk and olive oil. Add to the potatoes. Combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Going with the 4 servings plan, 6 potatoes is perfect. The potatoes were cooked but still firm enough to chew rather than mashed and creamy.This works out to 122 calories per 1 cup serving and 20 g carbohydrates.

Simple Sautéed Spinach

2 bunches of spinach (one isn’t enough for four servings!)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used lime juice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet on high heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant. Add the spinach and toss to coat evenly in oil and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium high and cover the pan. Cook the spinach for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice, salt, and the crushed red pepper. Mix well.

The spinach (can use other greens instead) was slightly sour and spicy, and complemented the saltiness of the potatoes and the sweet-tart flavor of the roasted grape sauce. This is 68 calories per half cup serving and 4 g of carbohydrates.

Spice-Rubbed Chicken Fingers with Cilantro Dipping Sauce

From the South Beach Diet Cookbook, this is a great meal, simple to make, and delicious. In New York City in midwinter, I made it on a stove top grill pan but in the summertime, it can be grilled on the barbecue.

Spice-Rubbed Chicken Tenders
1 lb chicken tenders
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the chili powder, cumin, and salt in a small bowl. Make small slits in the thick part of the chicken and rub a teaspoon of spice into the front and back of each chicken tender. Spray cooking spray on the grill pan and cook the chicken tenders 3-5 minutes per side.

Cilantro Dipping Sauce
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 garlic cloves
1 serrano chili (I used 1/4 of a scotch bonnet)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
cilantro for garnish, optional

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until fine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.


Substitute pork tenderloin for the chicken fingers. Bake at 400˚F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and tent with foil. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Green Pizza

I got bored with the South Beach Diet. That boredom also coincided with a plateau in weight loss.   A while back, I had bookmarked these 500 calorie menus on Eating Well so I thought they were worth a second look. This pizza recipe is unique in that it uses no tomato sauce and is completely vegetarian. AJ is my patient food tester. He ate four slices. What do you think? I asked him. “No meat,” he observed. Everyone’s a critic. Well, I thought it was crunchy and chewy and had the salty tang of olives and the nutty flavor of edamame.  Of course, I played around with the recipe so it’s not exactly 323 calories per serving. So though the menu is under 500 calories no one can eat just one slice of pizza. I ate two.

1 recipe pizza dough, preferably whole wheat (I used Whole Food’s prepared pizza dough)
2 cups broccoli florets (I used up some cooked leftover broccoli, edamame, green beans, and spinach)
5 ounces (6 cups) arugula
1/2 cup pesto (I used green olive tapenade)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

Blind bake the crust. Preheat oven 450˚F. Spray cooking spray on a pan. I used a rectangular 11×17 inch rimmed baking sheet. On a lightly floured board, roll out the pizza dough as thin as possible to fit the prepared pan. I suggest pricking the dough with a fork before sliding the pan into the oven to prevent it from puffing up. Bake 8-10 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is lightly golden. It’s not a disaster if the crust puffs up. I didn’t do this step and the top looked like a calzone. I simply poked the crust all over with a fork to deflate it.

Prepare the topping. Heat the water in a large skillet. Add the broccoli florets and cook 3 minutes or until crisp tender. Add the arugula to the broccoli and toss until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly. I recommend draining the vegetables or squeezing out the excess water.

Assemble and bake the pizza. Spread the pesto or tapenade on top of the baked crust. Top with the broccoli mixture. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly on top of the vegetables. Bake the pizza 8-10 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden and the cheese has melted.

Serve. I served the pizza with a side of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and basil.


  • For the meat lovers, add chopped Italian sausage (sweet or hot) to the topping.
  • Add chopped fresh or roasted red pepper, for color–then it won’t be a green pizza but a red and green pizza!

Thyme and Rosemary Pork Roast

This recipe is from the South Beach Diet. It uses fresh herbs and only takes an hour to roast. In all my years of cooking, I’d never done a pork roast before. It had a layer of fat on it which I trimmed, as I’m not a lover of fat. However, I left a little on and I noticed that it rendered on cooking by larding the roast. So maybe it was a good thing! The measurements were a little strange, e.g. 2/3 tablespoon, so I used my best judgment. It turned out juicy on the inside though the ends were dry. I’d say this recipe is a keeper!

2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro (2/3 tablespoon in original recipe)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or sage. (1/2 tablespoon in original recipe)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (1/3 tablespoon in original recipe)
1-4 cloves garlic, minced (ONE clove is not enough! I like lots of garlic.)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (2/3 teaspoon in original recipe)
dash salt
dash ground black pepper

2 lbs boneless center cut loin pork roast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Fresh sage leaves, for garnish, optional
Sprigs rosemary, for garnish, optional

Make the filling: In a small bowl, combine the parsley, sage or thyme, rosemary, garlic, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper. To make the pork loin: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Trim excess fat, if desired.

Butterfly the pork loin. Starting from the side, cut through the middle of the roast until you can open it out like a book. Sprinkle the one side of the butterflied loin with half of the salt and pepper. Spread the filling evenly across the loin, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edges. Bring the two sides back together. Using kitchen twine, tie the loin every 1 1/2 ” to hold its shape.

Prepare the pork loin for roasting. Rub the loin with the oil and sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Place the loin in a small roasting pan and position on the center rack of the oven.

Roast for 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 155°F and the juices run clear. Let stand for 10 minutes before carving. To prevent slices from unrolling, skewer the roast every 1/4″ with wooden picks along the edge where the roll ends.

Serve. Slice crosswise between the wooden picks and ties. Remove the kitchen twine before serving. Garnish with the sage leaves and rosemary sprigs if using.

Nutritional Information:
306 calories
19 total fat (5 g sat)
97 mg cholesterol
1 g carbohydrate
31 g protein
0 g fiber
506 mg sodium

Chicken with Garlic, Basil, and Cilantro

This week I’ve hit a plateau in my weight loss. Damn. Still watching what I eat, though. Tonight I tried an adaptation of a recipe I found on that meets the criteria for the South Beach Diet: low fat, low carbs, and no sugar. So I created my own Phase One recipe that I call

Chicken with Garlic, Basil, and Cilantro served with Three Bean Salad

Chicken with Garlic, Basil, and Cilantro
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (can use boneless skinless chicken thighs trimmed of fat)
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
4-6 large cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1 large tomato sliced into rings

Preheat oven 350˚F. Spray a 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons cilantro, 2 tablespoons basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, if using. Set cilantro mixture aside.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cilantro and 2 tablespoons basil in the dish. Place the chicken on top.
Spoon the cilantro mixture over the chicken pieces. Lay the tomato rings on top of the chicken and cilantro. Cover loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Bake covered 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking uncovered 10-15 minutes. Poke the chicken with a fork and the juices should run clear. This dish is delicious. The tomato rings help keep the chicken moist and tender.

Chicken with Garlic, Basil and Cilantro

Lunch in a Tomato Cup

Lunch in a tomato cup

Not quite South Beach Diet, but it was inspired! Instead of crabmeat I used tuna and put a base of three bean salad in the bottom.

2 (5 oz) tins tuna in water
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
salt and pepper to taste

2 large beefsteak tomatoes
two sprigs of cilantro to garnish, optional

Cut the top off the tomatoes and scoop out the flesh and the seeds. Rinse and drain.

In a small bowl mix together the tuna, mayonnaise, and onion. Add salt andp pepper to taste. Scoop into the hollowed out tomato then garnish with cilantro if desired.

I had leftover three bean salad from last night’s dinner so I put a scoop of beans in the bottom of the tomato and topped it off with tuna salad. A great variation (I just thought of it) is to alternate layers of beans with tuna! Delicious.

To make the Three Bean Salad (so easy!)

1 (15 oz) tin black beans
1 (15 oz) tin red kidney beans
1 (10 oz) tin garbanzo beans (or pinto beans)
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/3 cup red onion, minced

Rinse and drain the beans and put them in a large bowl. Add the onion and the vinaigrette. Toss to coat thoroughly.

Three bean salad in a tomato cup

Chinese New Year Feast

Chinese New Year’s Eve is traditionally the night in our family when we would get together to eat poh pia, a kind of Chinese taco, to welcome this Year of the Rabbit. But this Chinese New Year, the family is scattered all over,  in Bangkok, Chicago, and New York. Here in New York, AJ and I had a low-key celebration:

  • Ginger-Dijon Glazed Pork Tenderloin
  • Surprise South Beach Mashed Potato (Not! It’s cauliflower.)
  • Chocolate Mousse

You should know that I begin cooking with dessert! That’s because it needs to be chilled. AJ liked this so much he said it reminds him of a Wendy’s frosty. I’m glad because I altered this recipe. This recipe is based on the Cocoa-Nut Mousse recipe in South Beach Diet Supercharged but I left out the coconut. I’m not a fan of desiccated coconut. 

Chocolate Mousse

To make this re-named Chocolate Mousse, you will need

4 cups part skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar substitute
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup light or fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds, toasted, for the topping (optional)

Put the ricotta cheese in a large bowl and whip until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the cocoa, sugar, and extracts. Combine until just blended. Fold in the thawed whipped topping. Chill at least 2 hours. If desired, serve with toasted almonds sprinkled on top.

Now the main course: Ginger-Dijon Glazed Pork Tenderloin (adapted from South Beach Diet Supercharged). I made alterations to the recipe because I like spices and I like garlic. You can never have too much garlic.

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon reduced fat sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh ginger (increase from 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (increase from 1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silver
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered (increase from 1 garlic clove)
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare to bake. Preheat oven 450˚F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Make the Ginger-Dijon Glaze. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, sour cream, ginger, thyme, and salt. Set aside.

Prepare the pork tenderloin. Make 1/4 inch slits in the tenderloin about 1 inch apart and insert a sliver of garlic in each slit. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on top.

Sear and bake the tenderloin. Heat a grill  and sear the tenderloin until it is brown on all sides. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon the reserved glaze all over the meat. Put the pan to bake on the middle rack about 30 minutes.

Serve. Remove the tenderloin and pan from the oven. Tent with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with horseradish sauce, mashed cauliflower, and a simple salad. The pork is so juicy and tender. Mmm–mm!

South Beach Surprise Mashed “Potato”

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
Two tablespoons I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (I used real unsalted butter)
Two tablespoons non fat milk
Salt and pepper

Put a pot of water on to boil. Boil the cauliflower 6-8 minutes or until tender. Drain. In a food processor, process cauliflower and garlic until fine. Add milk and butter. You may need to add more or less depending on your preference. Add salt and pepper to taste.

What’s for dinner?

I had lunch at a diner on W. 34th Street and Eighth Avenue today and ate half a Salisbury Steak which tasted of nasty filler. I’m sure whatever was in that filler wasn’t on the South Beach Diet. Nevertheless, I was okay until the afternoon munchies hit me. Instead of celery and cheese, a snack of dried apple rings and mango tasted so much better. Today I bought a bathroom scale to keep me on track. I suspect what I really need is more self-control. We tend to spend money to lose weight rather than choose the cheaper alternative. Or so I console myself at dinner. It isn’t easy finding inspiration for dinner when one is on the South Beach Diet, Phase One. Something low in fats, carbs, sugars and tastes good. I think I found it!

  • Homestyle Meatloaf with Mushrooms and White Beans
  • Pan-roasted Vegetables
  • Baked Ricotta Custard

First, make the dessert (’cause it needs to chill!): Baked Ricotta Custard

Baked ricotta custard

Recipe (from South Beach Diet Supercharged)

3/4 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat cream cheese from a tub
1/4 cup sugar substitute
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 cup non fat milk (half and half in the original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat oven 250˚F.

In a large bowl, blend the cheeses at medium speed. Add the sugar, egg, egg white, milk or half and half, if using, and vanilla. Pour into four ramekins (I used a large glass bowl) and set bowl(s) in a baking pan filled with an inch of hot water. Bake until set about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature or chill if desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cake Baker’s Notes: Now I had problems with this. Either the oven temp was too low or the baking pan was too small or the custard bowl was too big. After 45 minutes, most of the center was still liquid and far from the custard it was supposed to be. I nuked it for 1.30 seconds. The top wasn’t pretty because it had boiled, but, it was cooked solid. Sprinkled with cinnamon, it tasted fine, like rice pudding. AJ and I ate it at room temperature but I’ll bet it’d taste delicious chilled 2-4 hours or overnight. With orange segments on top it would be a Phase 2 or 3 dessert.

While the ricotta custard cools, start preparing the main course: Homestyle Meatloaf with Mushrooms and White Beans, and Pan-Roasted Vegetables

Pan-roasted vegetables and homestyle meatloaf with mushrooms and white beans

Recipe  (adapted from South Beach Diet Supercharged)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can Great Northern beans (can substitute any white bean such as cannellini)
1 1/4 lb lean ground meat (turkey in original recipe; I used lean ground sirloin)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped parsley (I used cilantro)
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, plus more for serving

Get ready to bake. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Spray a glass or metal loaf pan (8x4x2 1/2) with cooking spray. Set aside.

Mix seasoning and spices. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Brown the onion, thyme, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Note: when adding herbs and spices from the jar, first pour them into the palm of your hand and add the desired amount. Never directly add to the food from the jar–you might add too much, as I did with the salt! Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and scrape onion mixture into a large bowl. Let cool about 5 minutes. To the cooled mixture, add the drained beans and the raw ground meat, the eggs, parsley or cilantro, and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

Bake the meatloaf. Using wet hands, mix all ingredients and shape into a loaf. Place loaf in prepared pan and bake 50 minutes. Meanwhile, mix Dijon mustard with remaining Worcestershire sauce. Spoon the mustard mixture on top of the meatloaf and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 170˚F.

Serve. Let the meatloaf stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting. Cut thick slices and serve with a dollop of mustard and pan-roasted vegetables.

Pan Roasted Vegetables (for two)

1/2 bunch thick asparagus stalks, trimmed
1/2 large red pepper
1 small sweet onion
2-4 large cloves of garlic
Olive oil, salt, and pepper

To trim asparagus, pick up a stalk and hold the tip and the end of the stalk  in your hands. Gently bend the end of the stalk until it snaps. Cut all asparagus stalks to the same length. Discard the cut ends. Put trimmed stalks in a large bowl with chunks of red pepper and onion and garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Heat a skillet on high heat. Add the vegetables and reduce heat to medium high. Roast the peppers, onions, and garlic until they blacken and the asparagus stalks turn bright green with brown spots on one side.

Notes: Substitute and/or add squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower–just about any vegetable you’re inspired to roast!