Hearty entrees offer better health in every bite

When the new year dawned, many of us vowed to start a more healthful diet.

But now, in late February, we may be grousing about how hard we struggle to stay on our new path because our favorite restaurants offer too many temptations. More often than not, however, we discover that some chefs also place a high priority on proper eating habits.

To find out how some of the conscientious chefs around here incorporate nutritious cooking into their lives and work, we sought out those whose exemplary creations inspire us to keep our drive. Here is a trio of entree ideas.

Carol Ritchie

Friends think of Carol Ritchie as the incredible shrinking chef, as the Arlington resident has dropped about 40 pounds over the past year. As manager of the Cooking School at Central Market in Southlake and host of online cooking programs, Ritchie knows her way around a stove, but she turned to a hospital-sponsored heart-healthy diet and exercise program in order to trim down.

Among the lean but immensely satisfying meals she has shared on her weight-loss video blog is this menu that stars pork tenderloin. When you want a dinner to sink your teeth into without sacrificing your resolve, this is the way to go.

Dana Cranfill

Personal chef and Bedford resident Dana Cranfill recently completed her first half-marathon, the training for which she accomplished while finishing treatment for cancer, working as a volunteer for the local Leukemia & Lymphoma Society chapter and delivering nutritious meals for the Fort Worth nonprofit Cuisine for Healing.

Cranfill says she enjoys eating as healthfully as possible simply because she feels better by doing so. And she's taking her mission to the next level, developing a series of classes in which she will teach people that it's easy to be a vegetarian while sticking to a budget.

"I have read every book I could get my hands on in search of how a cancer patient is supposed to eat," she says. "I think my classes will also help diabetics, people with heart disease and the everyday Joe who wants as much nutrition as possible."

Here's one of her first vegetarian entrees, in which she uses Terra Verde Fig Balsamic Vinegar, which she finds -- along with organic veggies and nuts -- at the Colleyville Farmers Market.

Mary Kha and Jarry Ho

Mary Kha Ho and husband Jarry Ho have befriended legions of loyal customers at their Tokyo Cafe in Fort Worth, a restaurant Jarry's parents opened in the late 1990s and that Jarry took over in 2002. Mary joined the family business in 2006, and the couple opened the West Magnolia Avenue hit Shinjuku Station last May.

At Shinjuku, a whole steamed fish typically comes as part of the omakase menu, meaning "in the chef's hands." Shinjuku customers like to linger over a meal, says Jarry, and the dramatic yet clean presentation is an ideal component in a lengthy, multicourse dinner.

But the Hos enjoy this at home, too, where Mary cooks dinner every night after the couple returns from restaurant duties. Mary says the steamed red snapper is perfect for celebrating the Chinese New Year, because "red is the color for good fortune, and the whole fish is a sign of good luck."

Dijon pork tenderloin

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 pound pork tenderloin

1. Combine mustard, rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt in a small bowl.

2. Trim excess fat off the pork tenderloin. Using a brush or a spoon (or clean hands), spread mustard mixture over pork. Place tenderloin in a roasting pan and bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees.

3. Allow pork to rest for 10 minutes before carving into slices to serve. Plate with roasted beets and sauteed kale for a balanced presentation.

Nutritional information per serving: 146 calories, 4 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 331 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 28 percent of calories from fat.

Roasted beets

1 pound beets, washed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Vinegar for seasoning, optional (balsamic, rice, red wine, apple cider vinegar, etc.)

1. Cut beets into quarters (or eighths, depending on the size). Place in a baking pan and drizzle with oil. Season with pepper. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife.

2. Sprinkle with vinegar of your choice for seasoning, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: 59 calories, 3 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 59 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.

Sauteed kale

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 pound kale, stem removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and onion, and saute 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Add kale and saute 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly wilted.

2. Add broth, salt and pepper, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender.

Nutritional information per serving: 90 calories, 2 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, no cholesterol, 188 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 22 percent of calories from fat.