Easy, Healthy Fish-n-Chips

I like meat a lot. However, as I’ve gotten older, my emphasis on it has waned. Granted, there’s nothing like a good burger or steak. But for the sake of my health, I’ve cut down on eating red meat to only once or twice a week at the most.

I got to thinking about this yesterday morning while listening to a story on National Public Radio about Meatless Mondays, which has been adopted by 12 countries from the U.S. to the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and Taiwan. Hundred of schools, companies, hospital and communities in those countries communities have adopted the “cut out meat just one day a week” movement to prevent obesity, heart disease and other killer chronic conditions. (Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer kill more than 1.7 million Americans each year and result in billions of dollars of preventable health care expenses and productivity losses.)

Meatless Monday is part of the Monday Campaigns (www.mondaycampaigns.org), a cultural revolution started by Sid Lerner, a 79-year-old ad guy from the “Mad Men” era. (One of his early ad roles was developing and writing for the “Don’t squeeze the Charmin” campaign at the old Benton & Bowles agency on Madison Avenue in New York City.

The most recent addition to the nonprofit Monday Campaigns is Kids Cook Mondays. Kids Cook Monday is a weekly opportunity for families to take health into their own hands. Kids Cook Monday provides examples of kid-friendly recipes and video demonstrations along with nutrition and safety tips — making it easy for families to cook and eat together every Monday.

Kids Cook Monday features several informative links including one to the webpage of Julie Negrin, a certified nutritionist and cooking instructor who believes that meals should be deliciously satisfying and healthful while also easy to prepare. Negrin recently published her first cookbook, “Easy Meals to Cook with Kids” for adults who want to cook with kids ages 2 and older.

Negrin’s works have been featured in newspapers, magazines, radio programs as well as on network television. Because of her many years of volunteer work in elementary through high schools, she was invited to attend first lady Michelle Obama’s “Chefs Move to the School” launch event at the White House. (Negrin’s book is available online at www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/BookSearchResults.aspx?Search=julie%20negrin or by e-mailing her at julie@julienegrin.com.)

Here is a sample recipe from the cookbook for fish and chips, a lighter version of a favorite comfort food, which can be made for less than $20 that both adults and children will love.

Easy, Healthy Fish-n-Chips
6 4-ounce cod, sole or tilapia filets
2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cup panko crumbs (or breadcrumbs)
Canola or safflower oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, dried herbs, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl such as a pie pan. Whisk egg and water together in a shallow bowl. Place panko crumbs (or breadcrumbs) in a third shallow pan or bowl. Dredge one filet at a time in seasoned flour, dip into egg was and then dredge in panko crumbs. Carefully place fish on baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. If fish is very thin, bake for 18 to 20 minutes. If fish is thicker, cook up to 25 minutes. Serve with tartar sauce or ketchup.
Yield: Serves 4.
4 russet potatoes, washed and peeled
1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or to 400 degrees for convection, which is best for this recipe). Cut potatoes into 1/8-inch slices. Pat dry well with paper towels or dish towel to remove any extra moisture. Toss with olive oil directly on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or foil. Spread out so slices they aren’t touching and sprinkle salt evenly. You can add more salt after you bake them if necessary. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until crispy.
Yield: Serves 4.
Note: For a crispier fish, you can pan-fry it, but throwing it in the oven keeps your hands free and is equally delicious.