south beach shepherd’s pie


South Beach Shepherd’s Pie (adapted from: South Beach Diet Supercharged)

4 cups (1 head) cauliflower separated into florets
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
1 large egg yolk
seasoning salt to taste (salt in original recipe)
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb extra lean ground meat
3 cloves garlic, minced, plus extra whole cloves for cauliflower, if desired
1 onion, chopped
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped
1/2 cup low salt (chicken or beef) broth, thickened, if desired, with a little tapioca flour or cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce (Worcestershire sauce in original)
pepper to taste

Preheat oven 350˚F.

Make topping. In a large saucepan, boil cauliflower florets and garlic cloves for 10 minutes. Drain. In a food processor, purée cauliflower and garlic. You may need to do this in batches. In a large bowl, whip puréed cauliflower with sour cream and egg yolk. Set aside.

Make filling. Heat olive oil until it shimmers. Sauté onion and garlic. Brown ground meat in onion garlic mixture. Add spinach. Cook, stirring, until bright green. Add the broccoli. Stir. Pour in broth, thickened, if desired. Season with soy sauce. Add pepper to taste. It might look as if there is not enough sauce but during baking, the cauliflower will “spring” more water.

Bake. Pour meat mixture into a 9-inch square baking dish. Spread the mashed cauliflower on top. Sprinkle salt on top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

cuban eggs

I don’t know why this is called Cuban Eggs! I blogged about this recipe about four years ago when I was in New York City–and I was writing another blog. But I’m in Thailand now and writing my second food blog Foodie Joanie. I still don’t know why it’s called Cuban Eggs but it is worth re-blogging!
Anyway, I found this recipe in the South Beach Diet for Beginners. Beginner cooks or beginner SB dieters? However you see it,  it can be either or both. This dish is quite easy to make and takes just half an hour. I made some adaptations to the recipe as you’ll see from the notes in brackets. The sauce was quite flavorful with the tang of tomato but it overpowered the cheese. AJ enjoyed these eggs and we both pronounced this recipe “a keeper.”
Cuban Eggs
8 large hard-cooked eggs (I used large eggs; egg size wasn’t stipulated in the recipe)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (I used mild)
3 tablespoons non-fat half and half (5 tablespoons non-fat milk)
salt and pepper to tasteSauce for Cuban Eggs
1/2 cup onion, chopped (I used scallion, minced)
1/2 cup sweet green pepper (for color contrast; but any color will do. I had red pepper on hand)
1 tablespoon butter (Oh, no! Use olive oil instead)
2 tins (8 oz.) non-salt tomato sauce (I used 1 salt and 1 non-salt)
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce, optional (my addition)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (I used cilantro)

Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C

Hardcook the eggs. Put eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover the pan and heat the water to boiling. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and remove shells. Split the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and put into a small bowl. But the whites in a 9-inch square baking dish.

Season the yolks. Mash the yolks with the back of a fork. Add the cheese and the milk. In fact, add just enough milk to make the yolks a thick consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each egg white with a heaping tablespoon of the yolk mixture. Place the filled eggs in a single layer in the baking dish.

Make the sauce. In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the scallions and sweet pepper and cook until fragrant. Mix in the tomato sauce and add the Sriracha, if using. Pour over the eggs.

Bake the eggs. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and garnish with cilantro, if using.

asian avocado salad


Asian Avocado Salad (adapted from
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 cups coarsely chopped trimmed romaine lettuce
4 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup 1/3-inch cubed, seeded Thai guava or green apple (can use jicama, also called munkaeo in Thai)
2 large avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 cup grape tomatoes (for color)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and/or scallion, optional, for garnish

salad dressing
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)*
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon sea salt (kosher salt in original recipe)
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1 teaspoon wasabi paste (use more if more heat is desired)

Stir sesame seeds in dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic and light golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to small bowl to cool.

Whisk salad dressing ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add lettuce or watercress, green onions, and guava or jicama; toss to coat. Add avocados and gently toss.

Sprinkle salad with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro/scallion. Chill and serve.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Cover; chill.

*Available in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets and at Japanese markets.


chocolate sponge cake

Now I’ve come to the best part of any meal, the dessert. I made a chocolate sponge cake from the South Beach Diet cookbook. This recipe frustrates me because I can never get consistent results. The method is not very clear, and sponges, alas, are delicate. Sometimes when I make it, it is humongous! Other times, it’s only six inches high because of over mixing. I think a height of eight inches signals success. So here is what I think: when combining the batter with the meringue, the flour, and the melted butter, mix them up all at once. It’s a light and airy cake when done well. Not as moist as a chiffon, but it has its charms, particularly with  the rich chocolate ganache that just oozes down the sides. Included at the end of this cake recipe is the chocolate glaze from the South Beach Diet cookbook. In the photograph above I used a chocolate ganache that’s 1/2 cup whipping cream and 11 1/2 oz milk chocolate.

Chocolate Sponge Cake (

Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes (includes cooling time)
Baking time: 40 minutes

7 egg whites (210g) separated while cold then bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup (169g) superfine sugar
3 egg yolks (75g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (130g) cake flour
3 tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm

1 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Make the sponge cake. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Use one 10-inch tube pan, ungreased and un-floured, Microwave the butter in a glass one-cup measure for 30 seconds on high heat. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together the egg yolks and vanilla. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the meringue forms stiff glossy peaks. Fold in one-third of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture.

Gently scrape the remaining meringue into the egg yolk mixture. Using a sifter or a strainer/sieve, sprinkle the cake flour over the top of the mixture. Pour the cooled melted butter on top. Very gently, fold—do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the pan, spreading evenly. Use an skewer to make cuts in the batter around the inner and outer edges to reduce air pockets. Bake 40-45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted hear the center comes out clean.

Invert the tube pan onto a large funnel or bottle, or if it has feet, let it rest on the counter top. Let the cake hang until it is completely cooled, about 1 hour. Press a thin blade knife towards the cake around the inner and outer edges of the cake to release the cake. Use a skewer to do the center. To release the bottom, turn the cake on its side and rotate it as you press between the cake and the cake bottom. Turn out onto a rack, and cool completely, with the crusty topside up to prevent splitting.

Make the chocolate sauce. Melt the chocolate and shortening in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Cool slightly.

Put the cake bottom-side up on the rack in the center of a large cookie sheet. Drizzle the melted chocolate in a criss-cross pattern across the top of the cake, letting the excess run down the sides and onto the cookie sheet below. Using a large spatula, lift the cake and transfer it to a serving platter.

coconut curried chicken

I’ve made this recipe from the South Beach Diet cookbook many times and each time it always surprises me because it’s so flavorful. It’s sweet, sour, salty, nutty, and a little bit spicy. To season it, I’ve added fish sauce (in Thai: nam pla) instead of salt  and it really makes a difference. Instead of brown rice,  I served the coconut curried chicken tonight with cooked pearled barley, steamed broccoli drizzled with lemon juice, and steamed green beans with kosher salt.

Coconut Curried Chicken


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chicken tenders
1 tablespoon chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon powdered coriander or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons almonds, ground
1 teaspoon sugar substitute
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 teaspoons water
Scallions sliced diagonally for garnish
2-4 teaspoons fish sauce, to taste, if desired


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, heat the broth. Add onion, garlic, cilantro, ginger, lemon peel, cumin and turmeric, and cook 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in the coconut milk, almonds, sugar substitute, and red pepper. Return chicken to the skillet, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken to a plate. Reserve the sauce. To the sauce in the pan, add the tamarind paste mixed with 2 teaspoons water. Stir into the sauce and gently boil until thickened. Add the fish sauce, if desired, to taste. Pour sauce over the chicken.
  4. Serve with brown rice, if desired, and sugar snap peas with red peppers.

Crab Cakes with Creamy Pepper Sauce

Crabcakes, Roasted Vegetables, and Tomato Salad

These crab cakes are always time-consuming to make but well worth it. I can’t be in a rush. There are so many ingredients and so many vegetables to prep first. With all that prepping, I don’t have time to roast the red peppers, though I’m sure it’s worth it. It’s so much easier to buy the roasted peppers in a jar.

Creamy Pepper Sauce
1 7-ounce jar roasted red pepper, drained well, discard liquid
1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise
ground black pepper

Puree the roasted peppers in a food processor. Add the mayonnaise and black pepper as desired and process briefly to combine. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate.

Crab Cakes
1 pound (2 cups) crab meat, flaked and well drained. (Put in a strainer and press with a fork)
1 cup chopped celery or chopped green beans
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 whole egg (egg white in original recipe)
2 tablespoons ground almonds (walnuts in original recipe)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice/lime juice or 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon celery powder or 1/4 teaspoon crushed celery seeds
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce, e.g. Sriracha Sauce. I used wasabi paste.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. I used whole wheat bread crumbs.

Cook the onion and celery. Heat the oil in medium non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until transparent, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Cool slightly.

Combine the seasonings with the crab meat. In a small bowl, add the egg (white), nuts, parsley, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Old Bay, Worcestershire (or soy) sauce, mustard powder, celery seeds, and paprika. Blend with a fork. Stir in the crab meat and hot sauce. Mix thoroughly with the cooled onion mixture. Put about 2 tablespoons of the crab meat mixture in your hands and squeeze it together into a ball. Form into 8 patties.

Roll the patties in whole wheat flour or breadcrumbs. Place the whole wheat flour or breadcrumbs, if using, in a shallow bowl. Gently roll the patties in the flour or breadcrumbs. They might fall apart so just pat them back together.

Lightly fry the patties. Over a medium flame, heat a large non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray. Working in batches, if necessary, add the crab cakes and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and cook for another minute longer or until browned on the bottom. Coat the tops with cooking spray and turn over. Cook for 2 minutes longer, uncovered, or until golden brown.

Serve with creamy pepper sauce as a condiment. For sides, I recommend a fresh garden salad and roasted vegetables.

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.