Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Me, On A Diet and Mediterranean Tilapia En Papillote

I recently decided that having been on about 17 different diets in the past few months the only way I am ever going to loose this stubborn 20 pounds is if I create my own diet.

Seriously folks. There are just too many things about some of these current diets that turn me off. I start one and within a few days I completely pitch it. And eat. What I want and how I want it cooked.

For instance, I could NEVER be on that diet system that delivers all your meals (plus snacks) to your house. I am a cook. Having prepared food delivered to my door would be like swearing off wine. And we all know that's not going to happen.

One recent diet had me giving up coffee - but Dr. Oz says coffee is one of the most antioxidant loaded beverages around. And I only ever have one cup, so does that mean I blow the entire program with one caffeine fix?

A very popular diet regimen in this country has assigned points for every morsel of food in the world. You get a certain number of points per day to eat and when you add up all your food (and points) you are done. I lost my calculator on the third day and think I ate a week's worth of points for breakfast.

Another diet had me eating seeds and nuts 4 times a day. I had to quit that one because I had an inexplicable urge to climb the backyard trees AND I could not for the life of me remember where I had buried all the rest of the nuts.

Yet one more had me abstaining from potatoes, bread, rice, fruit and several types of vegetables, but absolutely encouraged me to eat my fill of butter, oil, meats and cheese.


I am highly suspicious of any diet regime that forbids entire food groups and encourages mass consumption of others. The very word forbid makes me run out and buy a years supply of whatever the forbidden food is. Thank goodness I wasn't in the Garden of Eden, I would not have just bitten the apple, I would have baked a pie, made some applesauce AND written a blog post about it.

I believe I have enough schooling and culinary experience to have a pretty good grasp of what is healthy and what is not. In addition, I am fairly well versed in portion control AND I own and know how to use a food scale.

I'm thinking that my diet should consist of:

Lots of fruits and vegetables.
Dairy in the form of low or no fat yogurt and milk.
Some protein (lean) - like 3-5 ounces a day
An egg a week
Whole wheat pasta, brown rice and whole grain bread and cereal in moderation (like 1 serving a day)
Lots of water
Some fat - but healthy fat, like olive oil.
Herbs and spices - as many as I want in any combination.
Wine (like I always say, "Wine Is Life" and I'm not dead yet - just a little chubby)

What do you think? Do you have a magic combination of foods that help you reduce while keeping you satisfied?

Mediterranean Tilapia En Papillote: serves 4

16 to 20 ounces (1 to 1 1/4 pounds) Tilapia
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 orange pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 small shallot, minced
4 black olives, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tri-colored couscous, regular couscous or brown rice (cooked you will need 2 cups)
Parchment paper, cut into four 12 X 8 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put one cup of water on to boil. When it is boiling, add your couscous, cover and remove from heat.

Chop up your tomatoes, peppers, shallot, olives and parsley.

Whisk the olive oil and vinegar together and toss in the tomato, peppers, shallot, olives and parsley and whatever else I told you to chop up.

Stir it around to meld the flavors and Oh and Ah over how pretty that combination looks.

Now, lay one piece of parchment on the counter in front of you. Fold it in half, and crease it. Now open it back up. Place 1/2 cup cooked couscous in the center of the right hand side of the paper.

Lay a piece of Tilapia on top of the couscous.

Now spoon 1/4 of the tomato mixture over the fish. Make sure you include some juices. That will flavor the fish and couscous and keep both moist during cooking.

Here comes the fun part. Fold the left side of the paper over fish

and fold each edge several times, forming a seal on all three edges. Make small folds and really crease it. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet and repeat with remaining fish. You will have four packets in all. You may need 2 cookie sheets.

When you put the packet on the cookie sheet, fold down the corners, under the packet.. this will really seal it and keep it from opening in the oven. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Yes, I know there are only 3 packets in this picture. I only needed 3 servings. You can make as many as you want. The math is easy.

Now, put the cookie sheet with the packets in the 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. They will puff up a bit. It is the steam making the parchment puff. The parchment may even brown a little. That's okay, it's actually exactly what you want!

Serve the closed packets on individual plates. When each diner slices into their packet they will be rewarded with an incredible aroma! Warn them though - the steam is hot!! You may want to open a childs packet for them.

A Cook's Notes: I serve this dish with simple steamed broccoli on the side. Chop your broccoli, rinse. Add some minced garlic and steam. When crisp-tender, remove from steamer, drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

I like using parchment paper but you can use aluminum foil (lightly grease with olive oil before adding couscous) or even a brown paper bag cut to size (print side OUT).

This is also a fun dinner to make if you are having guests. You can make the packets a few hours ahead and put in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them. OR supply a variety of toppings and have your guests each make their own packet. Have them write their initials on the corner of the papillotes so they know which meal is theirs! Have fun. There are endless combinations of ingredients for en papillote cooking. And of course as always, Bon Appetite!


  1. Oh, this is pretty! And I like the idea of anything that's make ahead!

    I'm with you about the diets. My weight has been all across the scale through the years and I have found that there is no easy fix. Everything they've preached for years is true; everything in moderation and exercise.

    Due to all the research I've done lately for my husband's sake, I've discovered that diets really aren't that helpful. Particularly not for long term. What is most important is eating the right things (lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, etc.) and moderating the less healthy things (chocolate is unfortunately in this category). Sounds to me like you are planning on doing exactly what I'm trying to do. I have discovered that it's easier for me to eat healthier in the summer. I tend to crave comfort food when it's cold. Fortunately I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes so the new direction our nutritional plan's taking is very exciting for me!

  2. what a beautiful fillet! I love tilapia

    and I could NEVEr give up my coffee!

  3. That tilapia looks amazing! Another one I will have to try! I think I even have all the ingredients on hand- how lucky!

    Coffee: I am actually learning about this right now in my pathology class. As long as you do not have high blood pressure, and you stay away from other risk factors (smoking, STRESS, high animal fat diet) you can have coffee. Everything in moderation (except the above listed in parenthesis- none or not much of those at all)!

    I do not believe in DIETS in the traditional sense of the word, but I eat so many vegetables it's ridiculous. It has been a slow process adding all these veggies and fruits into my life but over time it has become pretty much all I eat. I occasionally have bread and cheese but it HURTS my poor irritable bowel so it is only once a week or so.

    My JUICE EXTRACTOR has changed my life. I have a big glass of freshly extracted juice every morning with carrots, celery, apples, pears, oranges, ginger, etc. It controls my appetite for hours and is so high in vitamins and minerals it's ridiculous. I highly recommend taking up juicing!

  4. Oh I also meant to say that your description of what your typical diet consists of looks VERY GOOD from a holistic nutrition standpoint and that I hope you also drink green tea.

    And also I want to say that I also eat whole grains and fish and tofu and chicken and stuff- not JUST vegetables... LOL- just MOSTLY vegetables.. : )

    Thanks for letting me clarify! (I am home sick today I have nothing else to do but comment on your blog!) : )

  5. Whitney - you are right, diets don't work for the long term. It has to be a lifestyle. My problem is I've never had a weight problem until I hit the dreaded 50... My body has betrayed me! I want to get this under control now while it's still manageable and I don't have to go on Biggest Loser!

    Mo - Clink! (my coffe coffee cup tapping yours)

    Jen - I only drink one cup a day so I feel safe. I LOVE Green tea and usually have a decaf cup at night before bed. Juicing doesn't seem to satisfy my hunger.. I think I just miss the chewing... but you are right, so good for you!

    Feel better and thanks for the nutritional advice. I think by making good changes I'll start to see the pounds slowly slip away. I exercise regularly, but have recently pumped up my routine - so that should help too? Anyway, enjoy your sick day... even though you had to be sick to get it!

  6. That looks so good! I think your diet plan sound on target too, but only 1 serving of pasta, bread, etc. That's seems awfully little.

  7. I totally agree with the "fad" diets.
    My best friends dad did the Atkins diet... and it was always convinced it would kill someone.
    A lot of these diets are temporary, too. I mean, c'mon, who could go forever without eating a potato. NOT ME.

    I like your personal dieting idea. I think it's wonderful!

  8. There's something on your blog that doesn't like to load at my work computer. These look wonderful.

  9. My daughter would so love this!

  10. It looks great. I've never had tilapia.

  11. Southpaw - It WAS good! 1 serving of pasta, bread, etc a day is hard for me but MORE servings than that is what got me into trouble in the first place!

    Phoebe - I agree with you - who could live without a potato?

    Kate - You obviously need to quit your job immediately.

    Debbie - Your daughter has good taste!

    Unknown - Tilapia is wonderful and so versatile. Did you know it is also called the Jesus fish? It is believed that Tilapia was the fish in the parable Fishes and Loaves.

  12. Being a good cook and cooking for a family, makes it hard to stick to a diet. I agree that it's about lifestyle. Your diet plan looks good! And the Tilapia looks scrumptious with the couscous! Great pics and recipe, thanks for sharing!

  13. I could easily sign up for the diet where food is delivered to my door... if you're willing to send it??

  14. I liked this blog specially because i love to know about diet or exercises because i am trying to be in shape. I wish to complete my exercises program and get the better result, lose weight and be beautiful for conquer a boy.

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Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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