At 18, I became a vegan. I admit this announcement did not make my mother happy. She made superb dishes--all types of cuisine--from breaded veal to beef stew from scratch. After all, as a child of the fifties, I grew up on meat and potatoes. But my mom visited Europe when I was a kid, and when she came back home, our meals were often creative and daring. Think snails and frog legs.
I don't know if it was nutritionist Adelle Davis or the popularity of health food stores that influenced me. Perhaps it was both. I do know, however, that eating fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, yogurt, and nuts has worked to keep me lean for decades.
Also, during my graduate school days, money was an issue. I recall a Baked Potato Bar (similar to a Salad Bar but more fun) in the Student Union--a starving students' utopia for lunch or dinner. It was so cool. You grab a giant pre-baked potato and dress it with a wide variety of toppings: all types of veggies, cheese, and herbs.
During the gathering of the variety of Mediterranean recipes in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, I learned that I can make my diet much tastier and more healthful by adding fresh onions, garlic, spices, and olive oil--especially flavored oils. The European flair is exciting to enjoy at home, especially if you can't whisk off to Italy, Spain, or Greece. (On pages 222-223, Shallot-Herb Stuffed Potatoes is a to die-for recipe created by The Golden Door Spa's former renowned Chef Michel Stroot.)
But you can whip up your own baked potatoes (Russet are best and nutritious), too, by putting your creative energy to work and top those taters with whatever you like--cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, olive oil, and Parmesan or Asiago cheese, plus so much more. (To boost your mood, hum the catchy sixties tune Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp.) A bonus: Use a large potato and plenty of toppings. It can be a meal in itself and a super recession-buster. (It's ideal for warming up on a cool, calm, and lazy pre-summer evening. Great for a party, kids, or get-together with friends. And it's the perfect dinner for sofa spuds, too.)