New Year's resolution food needn't be tasteless

Submitted by Judy on Thu, 12/31/2009 - 5:15pm.

You know those packages that say, “Do not open until Christmas”? If you tend to avoid resolutions until the actual first of the year, then eat, drink and be merry tonight, and save this column for tomorrow.

It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and I’m making the same one I make every year (sigh), to lose those extra pounds. And how I would love to implement my resolve at, say, the world-renowned Golden Door spa, pampered in the epitome of luxury with world-class chefs lavishing me with nutritious, satisfying, and glorious meals.

Ain’t gonna happen.

With the tight economy affecting travel plans, more and more Americans are choosing a staycation instead of a vacation – you know, donning bathing suit, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat for a luxurious loll in the backyard.

I’m spending my staycation at home with the help of the new “Golden Door Cooks at Home” cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $40) by executive chef Dean Rucker with food writer Marah Stets.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Golden Door with resort spas in Escondido, California, as well as throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

“It used to be that the term ‘spa food’ evoked images of unadorned dishes without flavor or flair, created to contain as few calories and as little fat as possible without regard for how enjoyable it was to actually eat them,” writes chef Rucker.

No longer. The emphasis now is on a healthy diet and portion control. “And this is made far easier when the food is both delicious and filling,” he says.

Chicken and Scallion Potstickers with Chili Lime Sauce. Pan Roasted Lobster with Basil Potato Puree. Moroccan Spice-Rubbed Lamb Loin with Chickpeas, Feta, and Olives. Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Sauce.

Spa food? Hardly.

In addition to these appetite-pleasing dishes, chef Rucker offers tips throughout for enhancing flavor, plus sidebars on mindful eating, meditation and fitness as well as nutritional information for every dish. And did I mention the gorgeous photos?

With cooler days upon us (oh, will our California winters never cease), soup is a wonderful choice – so filling and satisfying.

Thai Coconut Vegetable Soup calls for light coconut milk, red curry paste, sweet potato and pineapple. Talk about flavor. Truffled Mushroom Soup with Popped Wild Rice caught my eye. I’ve never thought of popping wild rice, but why not? Heat a tablespoon of grapeseed or canola oil in a small skillet, add two tablespoons of uncooked wild rice and shake the uncovered pan until most of the rice has puffed up and split open. Drain on paper towels. Add chives, salt and pepper when cool for a crunchy garnish for any soup.

I love roasted peppers, and the Roasted Poblano, Corn and Potato Soup sounds irresistible. “Spicy, smoky and creamy, this soup is boldly flavored yet comfortingly smooth and rich,” says chef Rucker.

Fullerton News tribne/Orange County Register, December 31, 2009

From “Golden Door Cooks at Home” by Dean Rucker

Grapeseed or canola oil spray
1 large onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1 pound russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 to 5 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock or store-bought low sodium broth
1 1/2 cups corn kernels
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced or 1 can (4 ounces) green chiles, drained and diced
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Spray a large saucepan; heat over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt, and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Spray a medium skillet and heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

3. Transfer potato mixture to blender and process until smooth, in batches if necessary. Return soup to saucepan, stir in chiles and corn, bring back to simmer, and remove pan from heat. Whisk in sour cream and chopped cilantro. Serve hot. Serves 6