Monthly Archives: September 2010

Mary’s Memo #2181


High levels of physical activity, such as shopping, housekeeping and living with others, show a strong association with perceived, functional fitness and mood in older adults, according to recent studies in Portugal and Japan presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore in June 2010. Lack of activity correlated with poor balance, depression and perception of poor health. Eighteen percent of Portugal’s population is over 65. The Japanese study concluded that older people should follow an exercise program to elevate mood and improve symptoms of depression. In Japan, 23 percent of the population is over 65. (In the U.S., 13 percent of the population is over 65.)

Source: Duke Medicine Health News, September 2010.


Drinking coffee may reduce the risk of head and neck cancers. In a recent international analysis that pooled data from nine previous studies on neck and head cancers, regular drinkers of caffeinated coffee had a lower risk of cancers of the mouth and pharynx (part of the throat behind the mouth); there was no effect on cancer of the larynx (“voice box”). Data on decaf were too sparse to draw conclusions; tea had no effect on any of these cancers. Coffee has been blamed for everything from hypertension to various cancers, but in nearly every instance research has found it not guilty, or found that it may actually be beneficial..

Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter,September 2010..


I love slow cooker recipes, especially ones that don’t take a bagful of groceries to make! Like many of you I peruse cookbooks when I am looking for something specific and also leisure reading. I was doing the latter when I found this week’s recipe for No Peek Casserole. The dish calls for 2 to 3 pounds of stew meat. My package weighed 2.17 pounds. For a cheaper option, buy a chuck roast when they’re on sale and cut your own meat into cubes. My package weighed 2.17 pounds and made 5 servings. Rather than buy a large bottle of wine, buy a package of 4 small bottles and keep on hand for recipes. Watch for sales on white and red wines in Chief and Rays wine department.


2 to 3 pounds beef stew cubes
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup
8-ounce can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
½ cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons Minute Tapioca

Combine all ingredients in a 4 to 6-quart crock pot. Cook on high 1 hour. Turn to low and cook an additional 7 to 9 hours. Serve on noodles or angel hair pasta.

Source: Adapted from recipe in Good as Gold, A Collection of Recipes from St. Pius X School, Celebrating 50 Years of Academic Excellence, 1955-2005, Greensboro, North Carolina..


I served a dish made with grits recently at the Bryan Chief and I was surprised that some customers hadn’t eaten them before. Although grits can be any coarsely ground grain, when I think of grits I think of corn grits, the most popular kind. Fresh or frozen sweet corn can be used.


1-3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup quick cooking grits (not instant)
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
¾ cup milk
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese (I used Romano)
1 bunch scallions, chopped (1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper

Bring salted water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add grits to boiling water, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat to low and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn and milk and cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Add cheese, scallions, butter, Tabasco sauce and pepper to grits and mix well. Serve immediately as a side dish with ham, pork chops or omelets. Recipe serves 6 to 8.

Source: Adapted from recipe in Pasadena Junior League California Mosaic cookbook, published in 2008.


There is concern about cross contamination in the shopping bags many of us are using these days. They are washable so to prevent bacteria from accumulating in the bags do wash them regularly. It has also been recommended that you separate meats from produce and other groceries that you buy
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Mary’s Memo #2180


In case you haven’t noticed, most bags of Kraft and Sargento shredded cheese now contain 13/4 cups of cheese instead of 2 cups. So if you need 2 cups (8-ounces), and most brunch recipes do, you’re forced to buy two packages of cheese to have enough for your recipe. There are also bricks of cheese that are 7-ounces now. Consumers who don’t read labels may assume that they have 2 cups when they don’t. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would rather pay a little more for the size package I am accustomed to buying instead of paying the same price for a product that weighs less. If you agree, call the companies and tell them how you feel. Otherwise they may cut the size even more like ice cream makers have done. In the last few years some brands have gone from ½ gallon to 56 ounces and now to 11/2 quarts


It may surprise you to know that plain Cheerios is a cereal that was around when I graduated from Purdue. At the time General Mills touted it as a whole grain readyto-eat cereal and it’s still that! However the company has mixed some fiction with fact about the cereal’s health benefits in recent times. It would take more than a bowl a day to lower cholesterol as much as they say it does and its honey wheat kind will not make you thin because it’s “whole grain.” I still buy original Cheerios and have a bowl for breakfast with sliced banana or blueberries several mornings a week but not because of miracle claims an advertising agency conjures up but simply because it’s a whole grain cereal that is good for my general health.


I’m not sure when I clipped this recipe from a magazine or what publication it was in but I’m sure glad that I tried it! The recipe said it serves 4 people but it easily made 5 servings for me. Although the zucchini was best the first day, it was still good reheated and I froze a couple servings for later. Do pre-measure ingredients because actual cooking takes less than 15 minutes. If you want to “kick it up a notch” use hot sausage.


1 lb. cooked sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch chunks
1-tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 cup dried orzo pasta
14-ounces low sodium beef stock
½ cup water
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2-1/2 cups zucchini, halved lengthwise and cubed (about 2 medium)
2 bunches scallions, cut in 1-inch slices
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage in hot oil for 2 minutes; stir in orzo. Cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in beef broth, water and Italian seasoning. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 8 minutes or until the orzo is tender. Add zucchini, scallions and red bell pepper. Cook an additional 2 minutes or until zucchini is crisp-cooked. Don’t overcook! Season with salt and pepper to taste. Recipe makes 5 servings.


Specialty food magazines cost too much but even so, I weakened and bought Betty Crocker’s $9.99 Halloween and Thanksgiving cookbook now available at Chief and Rays. It does have some fun recipes such as Halloween Buddies. I’m not crazy about pretzels so this recipe really appealed to me. Who says you have to wait until next month to enjoy this tasty snack? Recipe can easily be doubled.


4-1/2 cups Corn Chex cereal
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup peanut butter
12 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 cup candy corn
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts

In 1-quart glass bowl microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on high 30 seconds; stir. Microwave about 15 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Transfer to a gallon foodstorage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Add candy corn and peanuts. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator. Recipe makes (30) ¼-cup servings (120 calories).
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Mary’s Memo #2179


Remember the old days when the supermarket stocked only a few kinds of chips? Now the variety is astounding …. chips in every color of the rainbow and in dozens of flavors, from pickle to Tuscan Herb.

While most chips are no longer cooked in partially hydrogenated oils, a prime source of unhealthy trans fats, a one-ounce serving can contain up to 150 calories, 275 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of fat and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. That’s 8 percent of the calories, 1 percent of the sodium, 15 percent of the fat and 13 percent of the saturated fat of your allotment for an entire day.

To appeal to health-conscious consumers, many manufacturers have rolled out “healthier” chips. It may seem like a healthier option to eat chips made from carrots or purple potatoes than ordinary potato chips, but think again. Most potato chips start with real potatoes. It’s the oil they are fried in that poses the nutritional problem. Pita chips may seem like a healthier alternative, but they are often made of white flour and fried in oil, making them a low-nutrient choice. On the positive side, chips made with lower amounts of fat can be a lighter way to enjoy an occasional snack, as long as you remember they are not a “health food.”

Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Food & Fitness
Advisor, September 2010.


My problem with chips is that I can’t stop with a single serving! Potato chips are not my only weakness. I like Bugles, too, and now there are Sweet & Salty Caramel Bugles and Chocolate Peanut Butter ones. For research purposes I ate a bag of each so I could report on them in Mary’s Memo (someone had to do it). The problem is that I ate both bags in a week! Sorry to say, the only way I can abstain from potato chips and Bugles is to not have them in the house. Once a bag is open I munch on them several times a day until they’re gone. That said I liked the caramel glazed Bugles best. They’re a tad on the pricey side, over $3.00 for a 6-ounce bag, but a tasty decadence to say the least.

If you must eat chips, pick a baked one like Lay’s Baked Tostitos and have some salsa with them. I usually buy medium-hot Pace salsa but a good cook in Bryan told me about Mrs. Wages Instant Salsa Mix available in the produce department at Chief and Rays. Mixed with a 14.5-ounce can of petite cut tomatoes, it’s ready to eat in 10 minutes. Be sure to use petite tomatoes with no sodium added or the salsa will be too salty in my opinion. Recipe makes a pint.

Finally, Keebler has introduced Flatbread Crisps in two flavors: Italian Herb and Sea Salt and Olive Oil. Unlike many other flavored crackers, Flatbread Crisps are MSG-free.


To reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss, eat fish, especially fish rich in omega-3 fats, suggest new findings from the Blue Mountain Hearing Study. People over 50 who reported eating at least two servings of fish a week had a 42 percent lower risk of developing hearing loss (prebycusis) over five years, compared to those who rarely ate fish. The higher the omega-3 intake, the lower the risk, researchers reported. Omega-3s may help preserve microcirculation in the cochlea (the auditory portion of the inner ear) among benefits, similar to how these fats help cardiovascular function.

Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, September 2010.


You may still be cooking chicken for casseroles but not me! When rotisserie chickens are on sale I usually buy one, strip it from the bones as soon as I get home, package it in 2 and 3 cup amounts and freeze for future meals. Most recipes I see call for either 2 or 3 cups of cut-up cooked chicken.
Swiss Chicken Casserole takes 3 cups.

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Mary’s Memo #2178

September is Better Breakfast Month. I do hope that no matter what your age, that you take time to “break fast” in the morning. Because I’m always testing recipes, I eat what a lot of you would consider unorthodox foods. If I am tired of eating an entree for my main meal (2’s the limit) I usually finish it for breakfast. Ditto for soups although if soups are good, I freeze the leftovers. If I’m not going to make it again I might have it for the first meal of the day with toast and fruit to get rid of it. There’s no set rule on what we eat for breakfast although toast, cereal, eggs and such are the popular choices. This might sound crazy but since we’re to eat like a king at breakfast, a queen for lunch and a pauper at night you can even make it your main meal! Not conventional but certainly there’s nothing wrong with it, especially over the weekend when we have more time to cook.


A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 prior studies totaling about 1.2 million people has good news and bad news. The good news is that eating unprocessed red meat such as beef, pork or lamb was not associated with an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes. The bad news is that the same can’t be said of processed meats like bacon, sausage, salami, luncheon meat or hot dogs: Eating just 50 grams (1.8-ounces, about one hot dog or two slices of salami) of processed meat daily was associated with a 42 percent greater risk of heart disease and 19 percent increased risk of diabetes. Renata Micha, PhD, RD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues combed the scientific literature in the largest research review to date of the health affects of eating meat.

Source: DukeMedicine HealthNews, August 2010..


One of the things I like most about working for Chief is meeting new people. These encounters often happen when they ask me a question about fresh produce since that’s where I spend my time when I’m working. Recently a customer asked me about snow peas and pea pods. Both are served in the shell but I prefer snow peas because I think they are more tender. Both kinds are available in the produce department at Chief and Rays. In the 1970s, the food editors of Farm Journal magazine published a series of cookbooks including America’s Best Vegetable Recipes. They sold at 1970 prices, too, and most were only $5.95. Today most magazine format cookbooks in the supermarket cost more than that! Regarding snow peas, the original recipe did call for pea pods but Luke raised snow peas in the garden (when rabbits were not the menace that they are today) so I replaced pea pods with what we had in the garden. This recipe made 6 servings but feel free to cut it in half if it’s more practical to do so.


4 scallions with tops, chopped
¼ cup canola oil
4 cups fresh snow peas (about 1 lb.), both tips removed
(1) 5-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 cup chicken broth without MSG
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with an additional¼ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Cook scallions in oil in skillet for 2 minutes. Add snow peas and water chestnuts. Cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring until mixture comes to a boil and thickens and is transparent. Simmer briefly until snow peas are barely tender but still crispy. Recipe makes 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from recipe in America’s Best Vegetables by the food editors of Farm Journal, 1970.


The leisurely days of summer will soon be over but not our attraction to easy entrées to serve our families. Get this one ready the night before and bake when you get home from work.


¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 can Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ cup mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s Light)
2 cups dry noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 cups cut-up rotisserie chicken
1/3 cup buttered crumbs

Sauté onion and bell pepper in butter until tender. Blend soup and mayonnaise together. Add noodles and chicken. Spoon into 1.5-qt casserole. Top with buttered crumbs. Bake in 350°F oven for about 30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and crumbs are golden. Recipe makes 4 to 5 servings.
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