Saturday, January 3, 2015


Weighing in.
I won’t call it a “New Year’s resolution.” But, it’s my INTENTION this year to shed a few pounds/kilos.

I got the results of my year-end health checkup—all good, happy to report. Cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, all in high-normal range. But, on the accompanying report, the doc listed, along with hypothyroidism, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, sobrepeso. Excess weight.

I used to barely control my weight by sticking to a low-carb diet—with the occasional paella on special occasions. But when tests showed incipient kidney disease, the doctor advised low-protein eating. Chicken or fish, every other day. “What do I eat on the other days?” I wailed. “Pasta, rice,” he replied.

I must say that I have enjoyed every-other-day vegetarian meals. I love eating toasted whole grain bread with olive oil and tomato. Potaje of garbanzos and veggies. Pasta with pisto. But, I started putting on the pounds/kilos.

I put together a diet plan for myself, based on a basic low-calorie diet prescribed for diabetics.

  • No sugar whatsoever (easy for me, I stopped with the sugar several years ago).
  • No alcohol (this is hard—I love drinking wine).
  • Small portions of high-carb foods, preferably whole-grains. (Potatoes, carrots, peas and legumes count as high-carb foods.) Example, ½-cup measure of cooked rice OR 1 slice bread per meal.
  • Small portions of protein food (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, tofu). Example: 100 grams of meat or chicken per meal, or a portion about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Large portions of low-carb vegetables, both lunch and dinner. From 250 to 500 grams (½  to 1 pound), raw and/or cooked.
  • Two fruit servings per day. (No fruit juice.)
  • Olive oil as the only fat (limited to 4 tablespoons per day).
  • Reduced salt.
  • More exercise (I go to aerobics three times a week—not enough).
100 grams chicken = deck of cards.

Don't have kitchen scales handy? You can eye-ball it: a 100-gram serving of chicken or meat is about the size of a deck of cards. For seafood, allow 150 grams.
The key in meal planning is reduced portion sizes for both high-carb and protein foods. (A kitchen scales is essential.)

On the plate, low-carb veggies make up two-thirds of the serving; meat and starch together, only one-third.

Diet on a plate--A heap of broccoli, some salad, a tiny piece of chicken breast, a little mound of rice. It's a well-balanced meal, but not very interesting. Mix up the vegetable ingredients, add a few spices, change the cooking method, add a saucy side dish (grated cucumber and yogurt) and the meal is much more exciting.

Spicy chicken kebabs, grilled veggies and rice.

Pinchitos Morunos
Mini-Kebabs with Moorish Spices

Ready-mixed pinchito spice, especia para pinchitos, contains lots of cumin, coriander, red chile, turmeric and ginger. It usually also contains salt. Use instead a spoonful of curry powder combined with ground cumin seed.

The meat—here, chicken thighs—must be cut in quite small pieces, so that it cooks in the few minutes it takes to brown.

Makes 4 mini-kebabs, serving 2.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
Cayenne, if desired
200 g / 7 oz boneless chicken thighs, cut in 2-cm / ¾-in cubes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine the cumin, curry powder and cayenne, if using. Place the cubes of chicken in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with the parsley, garlic, salt, spice mixture and lemon juice. Combine well. Marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 3 hours. .

Thread 4 or 5 pieces of meat onto thin metal skewers. Cook them on a hot plancha (griddle), turning until browned on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes.

Verduras a la Plancha
Griddled Vegetables

Cooking time will vary for each vegetable, depending on thickness, but all should cook in 8 minutes or less. Grill the eggplant very tender, but allow zucchini and onion to stay somewhat crisp. Other vegetables, such as asparagus, can be added to this mixed grill.

Two servings of veggies--600 grams (1 lb 5 oz)
To serve 2.

2 (¾-inch thick) slices eggplant
2 (½ -inch) slices zucchini
Coarse salt
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
2 slices onion or spears of spring onions
2 mushrooms, sliced, such as portobello, oyster, or boletus
2 firm plum tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place the slices of eggplant and zucchini in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Pat the slices dry. Spread them in a shallow pan.

Cut the peppers into quarters, discarding stem and seeds. Place them in the pan with the eggplant. Add onion slices, mushrooms and tomatoes. Brush all the vegetables with oil. Turn them and brush the other side.

Heat a ridged grill pan or flat griddle very hot. Cook each of the vegetables until tender, turning them with tongs to grill both sides.

Divide vegetables between two plates. Sprinkle with additional salt. Serve warm or room temperature.

Here's another way to serve up lots of vegetables and small portions of carb and meat.

Luella’s Basura

Basura means “garbage”. That’s what my friend Luella called her meal-in-a-pot that she cooked in huge quantities to eat, sometimes twice a day, for a week. 

Lots of veggies, a tiny bit of meat and pasta, go into this meal-in-a-pot.
Luella was a diabetic who hated to cook. Her doctor’s orders prescribed fixed amount of meat (100 grams), pasta or rice (20 grams) and vegetables, raw and cooked (300 grams) per meal, lunch and dinner. So, she measured it all out, multiplied by 10 and dumped it all in two big pots. After cooking and cooling, it was stored in the fridge, providing 10 ready-cooked meals that she never had to think about. Because she also was on a salt-free diet, she used whopping-big amounts of curry powder to flavor the stew, sometimes varying it with chili powder mix that I made for her. When Luella was cooking basura, you could smell it throughout the barrio where she lived.

The garbage-pot is not a soup, but a vegetable-rich stew. Rather than adding the carb—pasta—to the pot, as Luella did, I like the stew better ladled over a half-cup serving of brown rice. She didn’t mess around with “garnishes,” but I like snipped herbs or green onion to serve.

Tips: Don’t peel the eggplant—its skin has cholesterol-reducing properties. Add cinnamon and turmeric to the spice blend—they help to regulate blood sugar. A splash of vinegar or lemon juice will accent flavors without adding salt.

Luella's basura. OK, you give it a better name!

4 servings.
Pasta for 4 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
400 grams (14 oz) lean ground beef
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder
½ cauliflower, cut into florets
½ eggplant, cut in cubes
1 can (2 cups) chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
Salt (optional)
½ zucchini, cut in cubes
Package frozen green beans
80 g/2.8 oz pasta
Chopped green onions to garnish

Heat the oil in a large stew pot. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper. Sauté until onion is golden. Add the ground beef and brown it, breaking up the meat with a fork. Stir in the curry powder. Add the cauliflower, eggplant, canned tomatoes, water and salt, if using. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add the zucchini, green beans and pasta. Cook until pasta is barely tender, 6 minutes. (Both zucchini and pasta will continue to cook in residual heat.)

Serve hot garnished with chopped onion.

Add some chopped herbs to the basura.


Tell me what you think of the new page format for MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN. Suggestions welcome.


  1. I like it very much, it is nice and clean, I noticed it as soon as I started reading. I also like the about ME and Archives etc down the left hand side.

    1. Patricia: Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the feedback.

  2. Replies
    1. Donna: Thanks! Still needs some tweaking, but it's freshened up.