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Looking for a little help with your slimdown? Check out these recipes for fresh and flavorful menu options, pulled from the Cary Magazine food archives:

The following recipes are courtesy of Linda Watson, author of Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet — All on $5 a Day or Less (Da Capo Press, 2011), and are used by permission.

Light Sweet Potato Salad

Lighter than traditional potato salad, this recipe is healthier and more colorful too. With no mayonnaise to weigh it down, it's also safe to pack for lunch. Serve as is or on top of shredded lettuce.

2 sweet potatoes, about 1 pound, 7 ounces
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 green onions
1 bell pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil or corn oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon chipotle hot sauce (optional)

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Put in medium pot with water and salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender but still hold their shape, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop bell pepper into 1/4-inch pieces and chop green onions into 1/4-inch rounds.

Make dressing by mixing remaining ingredients (except hot sauce) in a small jar or bowl.
Drain potatoes; gently toss with dressing while still hot. Toss potatoes, bell peppers and green onions. Taste and add salt if desired. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, topped with hot sauce if desired. Serves four.

Red Lentil Stew with Asparagus and New Potatoes

Red lentils are the fast food of the legume world. This stew takes only 20 minutes to make, not hours like other bean stews. Enjoy asparagus flavor in every bite by cooking the lentils in an asparagus tea made from the woody stems. It’s a great choice when you're eager to get outside to enjoy the spring weather or on any busy day.

1 clove garlic
4 ounces asparagus
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup red lentils (3 ounces)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 red or yellow onion
2 new potatoes (8 ounces)

Mince garlic and set aside. Trim about 1/4 inch from the bottom of asparagus stalks to get rid of any dirty or damaged parts. Gently flex each stem so it breaks just above the woody part of the stalk. To make asparagus tea, cut the woody parts in half lengthwise and put in a small pot with water and salt. Cover pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off heat and allow tea to steep.

Pick through lentils to remove any stones or debris. Rinse lentils and set aside.

In a medium pot, warm olive oil over medium-low heat. Chop onion into 1/8-inch pieces and cook with olive oil until soft, about 3 minutes. Chop potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes.

Add lentils, potatoes and asparagus tea to onion mixture, discarding asparagus stems. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer for about 6 minutes, until lentils and potatoes are barely tender.

Cut tender parts of asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Stir into stew, cover and simmer until asparagus is bright green and crisp-tender.

Serve hot or room temperature. Serves two.

The next set of recipes are courtesy of Raleigh Chef Alvin Cotto, owner of We Cook For You catering company. Specializing in, though not limited to, Caribbean cuisine, Chef Cotto says he strives for authenticity in each dish.

Seasonal Fruit Skewers with Guava Cream

  • 1 of each cantaloupe, honeydew, small seedless watermelon and pineapple
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 6 oz. container vanilla yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 3 Tablespoons guava preserves
  • 1 package of small wooden skewers

Cut each melon into square pieces and scoop balls with melon baller. Cut pineapple into squares. Skewer fruit, alternating by square piece, melon ball, strawberry. Two to three pieces of fruit will fit on each skewer.

Mix yogurt, honey and guava preserves together in a small bowl.
Arrange fruit skewers on a platter and serve the guava cream on the side.

Note: Guava preserves can be found at Hispanic food stores such as International Foods in Raleigh. Strawberry or raspberry preserves can be used as a substitute.

Fresh Strawberry Salad

  • 1 lb. mixed greens
  • 4 oz. bleu cheese crumbles
  • 4 oz. walnuts
  • 4 oz. dried cranberries
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, through strawberries.

When ready to serve, gently toss your salad with vinaigrette and enjoy. Extra vinaigrette can be served on the side.

Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Mix all ingredients together.

Mojo Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Mango & Papaya Chutney

  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 5-6 pounds total
  • 1 24-oz. bottle Goya Mojo Criollo
  • 1 ripe papaya, diced, discarding skin and seeds
  • 2 ripe mangos, diced, discarding skin and pits
  • 1 small jar roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, removed from stems and chopped
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Remove silver skin from tenderloins and marinate in mojo for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.

Combine papaya, mangos, roasted red peppers, cilantro, red onion, cumin, salt, pepper and lime juice to make the chutney.

Grill the pork tenderloin over indirect, medium-high heat until cooked thoroughly (internal temperature of 135 degrees). Remove from grill and let rest for 2-3 minutes.
Slice and shingle the pork on a platter and garnish with the chutney.

Note: Goya Mojo Criollo can be found at Hispanic food stores or in the Hispanic section of some grocery stores. It is a marinade made with citrus juices, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and black pepper that is traditionally used in Caribbean cuisine to flavor meats and poultry.

Sautéed String Beans with Bell Peppers

  • 2 lbs. fresh string beans, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook green beans until they are just about tender, but still have a small snap. Strain and set aside.

Warm olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and sauté peppers until slightly tender. Add crushed garlic and green beans to the sauté pan and sauté everything together until tender.

Season with salt and pepper.

Finally, what’s warm weather without Cajun sliders? Here’s a recipe adaptation from Bobby Deen. He says while the Cajun seasoning in these sliders does add a bit of sodium to your dish, the bold flavors will help you feel more satisfied after eating, and keep you from going back for more.

Nutrition facts before/after Bobby's transformation:
Fat 15 grams/4 grams
Calories 310/272

Bobby Deen's Cajun Sliders

These sliders are not for the faint of heart. If spice is not your thing, though, feel free to skip or reduce the hot sauce in the spread. These mini sandwiches will still make you feel like you took a detour to the Bayou on your lunch break.

Cajun Sliders

6 ounces 93-percent lean ground turkey
6 ounces 95-percent lean ground beef
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, plus extra for the vegetables
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 8 strips
4 round onion slices (from 1 small onion)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fat-free mayonnaise (or use low-fat; optional)
2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
4 small sandwich buns

1. Preheat the broiler. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the turkey, beef, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning and hot sauce. Form the mixture into four fat patties (a little wider than the buns).

3. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Cook the patties, covered, turning once, until the internal temperature reaches 165 F on an instant-read thermometer, 8 to 10 minutes total.

4. Meanwhile, place the bell pepper strips and onion slices on the prepared baking sheet. Season with a pinch of the extra Cajun seasoning and lightly spray with cooking spray. Broil, without turning, until browned along the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and mustard and spread on the inside of each bun. Put a patty on the bottom of each bun, top with an onion slice and two strips of bell pepper crossed over each other, and cover with the top bun.

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