We're two weeks into a new year, which means most of us are only two weeks into that annual resolution to trim down after all our holiday over-indulging, and are already falling off the wagon.

The trouble with dieting is that it's never something we want to do, but rather something we think we need to do. Which means that instead of focusing on what we're trying to accomplish, our subconscious is focused on what it thinks it's missing.

The time of year that we tend to do this doesn't help: It's cold outside (well, part of the time), so we're craving warmth and comfort inside.

Ah, but warming comfort food doesn't have be overly indulgent and fattening. It's possible to have warmth and comfort without blowing the diet.

With a few tricks up your sleeve and in your pots and pans, you can stick to your resolve and lose weight without giving up the hearty comfort food you're craving.

⢠Slow down: literally. Eating slowly and more thoughtfully is the single most important secret to succeeding at a diet. Even when you think you're starving, take your time. When we eat too fast, our bodies can't keep up, and by the time the satiation triggers register that we've had enough, it's too late: we've already overeaten.

⢠Don't give up fat altogether: It's not only a necessary nutrient, it carries flavor and contributes to our feelings of satiation, and that will go a long way toward keeping you from feeling deprived.

⢠Use fat as a finishing element: Lay a pat of best quality butter or drizzle a teaspoon of good olive oil over those steamed vegetables or fish, or use them as a finishing touch for pan-broiled chicken or lean meat. This keeps it forward on your palate, and the less fat is processed or cooked, the more easily our bodies assimilate it instead of merely storing it.

⢠Use your spice cabinet and if you aren't already using a lot of them, start using plenty of fresh herbs. By upping the flavor ante with pepper, spices, and herbal accents, you're going to feel more satisfied.

⢠Eat more complex carbohydrates: Whole grains, fresh and dried fruits, and vegetables, but don't try to completely give up bread, pasta, and cereals like white rice. You're setting up yourself for certain failure. Just eat less of these things.

⢠Eat smaller portions of animal protein, but don't give it up altogether. These foods take longer to digest, so they stay with us longer, contributing to the feeling of satiation that keeps us from overeating.

⢠Ease into it. Unless you've got an issue that calls for drastic measures (and trying to get into a bikini before summer when you haven't been able to get into it since the first Bush Administration is not such an issue), stay away from extreme diets that require you to completely abandon whole groups of food and suddenly alter your eating patterns so much that you can't adjust.

 

ROLLED STUFFED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH LEEK AND HERB "SAUSAGE" FILLING

This is probably a bit too labor intensive for a weeknight meal, but it's a lovely thing for a special occasion or company. Leeks lend a creamy texture to the "sausage" filling that's made with the lean trimmings from the tenderloin's ends. Neither your company nor you will know you're on a diet.

Serves 4

1 large pork tenderloin

Whole black pepper in a mill

3 thin slices lean prosciutto

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion or chopped green onion

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup fine soft breadcrumbs

Salt

About 1 cup homemade chicken broth or low-sodium canned broth

3/4 cup dry white vermouth

2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional

 

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Trim tenderloin of silver skin and fat and remove narrow end and upper lobe of meat at large end. Finely chop lean meat trimmings (can be done in food processor, pulsing machine until finely chopped but is better done by hand).

2. Lay tenderloin on flat work surface and butterfly as follows: make cut down one side to within 1/2-inch of bottom side. Open and carefully cut horizontally along inside of thicker side to within 1/2-inch of other side. Open flat, cover with plastic wrap, and lightly pound to even thickness. Season with pepper and completely cover with single layer of prosciutto.

3. Put 1 tablespoon oil and leeks in large, ovenproof skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until leeks are wilted and softened, about 4 minutes. Add chopped pork and stir until it loses raw red color. Add scallions and toss until hot through, about 1 minute. Turn off heat. Add herbs, crumbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Moisten slightly with broth if it seems dry and toss well to mix.

4. Spread stuffing evenly over prosciutto layer on tenderloins to within 1/2-inch of edges. Roll up and truss securely with twine. Season outside lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Wipe out pan in which leek stuffing was prepared and put in remaining tablespoon oil. Warm over medium heat until hot but not quite smoking. Put in stuffed tenderloin and brown well on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Pour about 1/4 cup vermouth over tenderloin.

5. Transfer pan to oven and roast until center of roll reaches 155 degrees, about 15-20 minutes longer. Transfer to platter, cover with foil, and let rest 10 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, put pan over direct medium heat. Deglaze with 1/2 cup vermouth and let boil, stirring and scraping pan, until reduced by half. Add 1 cup broth and bring to boil. Cook until reduced by half, stirring often. Whisk in mustard and bring to a simmer. Remove pan from heat and if liked whisk in butter.

6. Remove twine from pork and slice crosswise about 1/2-inch thick. Arrange on platter or divide among serving plates, drizzle with sauce, and serve at once.

 

CHICKEN TINGA TACOS

From friend and colleague Angela Lopez's lovely book "The Whole Enchilada" (Pelican/2015), published under her blog nom-de-plume Angelina LaRue. Tinga is a Mexican dish with shredded beef or shredded chicken, and is one of her son's favorites. The chicken can be made entirely ahead of time. Refrigerate leftovers in airtight container for up to 1 week. Reheat in skillet over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, adding 1-2 tablespoons water, as needed.

Serves 4 to 6

 

4 bone-in chicken breast halves with skins intact

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with juice

2 to 3 chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce), finely diced

8 to 12 corn tortillas, warmed

Optional toppings: Light sour cream and grated Monterrey Jack Cheese

 

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Season chicken with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sear chicken about 2 minutes per side, until all sides are light brown. Cover and bake for 45 minutes.

2. Remove chicken from Dutch oven, reserving drippings, and transfer to cutting board to cool slightly. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and debone, setting meat aside.

3. Place Dutch oven with drippings over medium heat and add garlic, tomatoes with juice, and chipotle peppers. Using handheld potato masher, break tomatoes up a bit. Stir in deboned chicken and simmer 30 minutes.

4. Spoon portion of chicken into warm tortillas and top with light sour cream and grated Monterrey Jack cheese, as desired. Serve warm.

 

PAN-BROILED BONELESS CHICKEN BREAST

Serves 4

 

4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each) or 2 large (10-12 ounce) breast halves split in half horizontally

Olive oil or melted butter

Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

4 half-tablespoon-sized slices Maitre d'Hotel Butter (recipe follows)

 

1. Let chicken sit at room temperature 20 minutes. Dry with paper towel. Lay breasts on plastic wrap, cover with a second sheet of wrap, and lightly beat out to even thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Heat seasoned iron, enameled iron, or other heavy-bottomed skillet (do not use nonstick pan for this) over medium heat for 5 minutes.

2. Brush chicken with butter or oil and put in heated pan, fat side down. Cook 3 minutes. Brush with more butter or oil, turn, and cook 3 minutes more. Lower heat to medium and cook until just done through, about 1-2 minutes longer, turning once.

3. Remove from pan and divide among warm serving plates. Top each with slice of Maitre d'Hotel Butter and serve immediately.

 

MAITRE D'HOTEL BUTTER

The best known of all compound butters, this one is classic on steak but will go with almost anything, including pan-broiled chicken breast. A half-tablespoon of this will add about 50 calories to your meal, but it adds a world of flavor and a feeling of satisfaction that are both well worth it.

Makes about 9 tablespoons, or 9-14 servings

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

2 generous tablespoons freshly minced flat-leaf parsley

About 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and whole white pepper in a mill

 

1. Lightly cream butter with a wooden spoon. Mix in parsley and lemon juice, to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Can be made in food processor fitted with steel blade.

2. Spoon butter onto a square of wax paper. Roll into a 1-inch cylinder and fold ends. Chill until firm. To serve, slice into half-tablespoon rounds as needed and put on top of vegetables, fish, chicken breast, or beef while warm.

 

CHICKEN DIJON

I included this simple and just plain good chicken cutlets in a column on chicken breast suppers a couple of years ago. It's the perfect thing to make a lean meal feel indulgent. If the chicken breast halves you find are 10-12-ounce each, split them in half for this recipe. See the notes above.

Serves 4

 

4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each) or 2 large (10-12 ounce) breast halves split in half horizontally

Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

1 small clove garlic, crushed, peeled, and roughly chopped

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup dry vermouth

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon crumbled dry, or 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

1 tablespoon olive oil

 

1. Position rack 8 inches below heat source and preheat broiler for 15 minutes. Trim chicken of fat and any cartilage and pat dry. Put in shallow glass or ceramic dish. Lightly season with salt and pepper, turning to evenly coat with seasoning.

2. Sprinkle chopped garlic with pinch of salt and, with side of knife blade, rub to a puree. Scoop into a small bowl. Add mustard to garlic and whisk in vermouth and olive oil. Stir in thyme and pepper to taste. Pour this over the chicken, turning to coat, and let marinate 15-30 minutes.

3. Rub rimmed baking sheet or bottom of flameproof (broiler safe) casserole with olive oil. Wipe chicken breasts and put skin-side down in pan. Brush generously with marinade.

4. Broil until beginning to color, about 3-4 minutes. Turn, brush with more marinade, and broil until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes longer. Discard remaining marinade.