Monthly Archives: February 2011

Mary’s Memo #2203


I had a request from a Bryan shopper to write about
Meyer lemons, available now at Chief and Rays. The source
of my information is Field Guide to Produce by Aliza Green.
Meyer lemons originated in China. They are a cross between
a regular lemon and a tangerine. Plant researcher
Frank Meyer brought these highly fragrant lemons to the
U.S. in 1908 from the area near Peking. Although the peak
season for Meyer lemons is November through January,
they're occasionally available until April. When choosing
Meyer lemons look for bright, shiny fruit with a richly
colored orange yellow rind, indicating the fruit was fully
ripe when picked. Store all lemons in a plastic bag and use
Meyer lemons within a week of purchase. Personally, I use
them like regular lemons but there are dessert recipes that
specify Meyer lemons.


I can't tell you how often I have had calls from people
wondering if their food is safe to eat.

The majority of packaged foods are stamped with a label
saying "best before," "use by" or "sell by" followed by a date.

These terms are more about the food's quality than
safety, explains Georgia Giannopopoulos, RD, CDN, CNSC,
a dietitian at Weill Cornell Medical Center. "A 'best used
by' date marks when the food should be consumed for the
best flavor or quality. A 'sell by' date marks how long a
store can sell a product. A 'use by' date marks the last date
to use the product while at peak quality, but many foods
are still safe to consume after this date."

Giannopopoulos added that there is no absolute "expiration
date" that guarantees the food is safe prior to
the date or that it's harboring harmful bacteria after that
date. For example, if you open a container of sour cream
and there's mold in it, it's unsafe regardless of the "sell by"
date. To minimize your risk of food borne illness, you will
have to rely on your common sense and your senses and
adhere to safe food storage practices. "When in doubt,
throw it out" is still your best option.

Source: Weill Cornell Food & Fitness Advisor, February 2011.


Judging by how many macaroni and cheese recipes
and variations that I see in newspapers, magazines, cookbooks
and the internet I'd be remiss if I didn't include one
in Mary's Memo such as Elaine Robinson's Macaroni Casserole
from The Church Potluck Supper Cookbook. It's nutritious,
easy to make and very affordable per serving!


2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni

2 cups milk

2 cans Campbell's Healthy Request cream

of mushroom soup, undiluted

(1) 2.5-ounce jar dried beef, chopped

4 hard cooked eggs, chopped

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

(reduced fat kind, if available)

Mix all ingredients together and spoon into 2-1/2 quart casserole
dish. Refrigerate overnight. Next day bake in 350ºF
oven for 1 hour or until macaroni is tender. Recipe makes
6 servings.

Source: Adapted recipe from The Church Potluck Supper

Cookbook by Elaine Robinson; Adams Media Corporation/$


Watch for chuck roast sales to make this savory sandwich
filling. I make a day ahead so I can lift as much fat as
possible from the mixture.


4 pounds boneless chuck roast

1 rib celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 large onions, sliced

(1) 14-ounce bottle catsup

3 tablespoons Montgomery Inn brand barbecue

sauce (my preference)

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1-1/2 cups water

Trim as much fat as possible from meat before cooking. Put
meat in large roaster pan. Mix other ingredients together
and spoon over beef. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 300ºF
oven for 5 hours or until meat is tender enough to shred.
Chill entire mixture overnight in a stainless steel or glass
container. Next day lift off any hardened fat. To serve, reheat
filling and spoon onto buns. Note: Sandwich filling can
be frozen in smaller amounts to use as needed. Download PDF of Memo #2203

Mary’s Memo #2202


Heavy smoking in midlife increases the risk of dementia
later in life, according to a new study in the Archives of
Internal Medicine, which tracked more than 21,000 people for
23 years. Compared to non-smokers, those who smoked more
than two packs a day when they were in their fifties had more
than double the risk of eventually developing Alzheimer's
disease or vascular dementia. Light smokers and those who
quit before their fifties, however, showed no increased risk.
Smoking raises blood pressure and stroke risk, makes blood
vessels less elastic, causes inflammation and has other adverse
effects on the brain.

Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter,
February 2011.


If you want to be creative in the kitchen you can try out the
recipes available on You'll find heart-healthy recipes
like Red Hot Fusilli and Scallop Kabobs, as well as recipes you
can build from fresh ingredients. Use tools from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention to build recipes around a certain
fruit or vegetable that you already have in your home. If you
have picky eaters, you can customize your recipes to include
ingredients they enjoy. For tried and true dishes check out the
recipes from the GovGab blog's test kitchen. Here you'll find
recipes the bloggers made and tested on friends and family
members. If the recipes tasted good to food-loving test subjects,
they are sure to be a hit at your house too. You'll feel good
serving these dishes because you know they contain the fruits,
vegetables and whole grains your family needs to be healthy.


Personally, I avoid plastic that isn't USA made. Other countries
do not have the rigid standards that we do and you run the risk
of chemicals leaching into the food. Also, I never cook in plastic
no matter where it's made. This is easy for me to do because I
have plenty of glass containers. That said, it may surprise you
but Goodwill stores are a source of glass cookware. I know this
because I've found some good buys at our local Goodwill store
including a 2-1/2 quart Corning covered casserole dish in mint
condition, a 9x2-inch round baking dish and a brand new Grab-
It-Bowl cover. I do store food in USA Rubbermade Take Along
containers available at Chief and Rays but always wait until
food is cold before filling.


I shy away from recipes with over 400 calories and try to
test ones with less than 300 calories per serving. Whenever I
can I use lower calorie products including reduced-fat cheese
and sour cream, one-third less fat cream cheese, evaporated milk instead of half and half or whipping cream and rarely ever
use anything but one percent milk, that's what I normally buy.
The only time I don't use reduced-fat foods is when it would
make a difference in something I'm baking.


When hot dog buns are on sale make Herb Bread Sticks.
They're great served with soup, salad or even a mug of hot
V-8 juice. Besides, anything seasoned with dill always gets my
vote! Made with whole wheat hot dog buns, they're even
more nutritious.


8 hot dog buns

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Split hot dog buns vertically into
quarters. Mix remaining ingredients together and spread on
bun quarters. Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes.


Like you, I can't resist a bargain when Chief and Rays have
potato sales. Michigan russets were on sale recently at $2.99
for a 10-pound bag. A number of potatoes in the bag were
also the size I like to bake. No, they were not grown in Idaho
but a bargain is a bargain! Now I'm concentrating on ways
to use them such as Potatoes Margaret. Adding shredded
Monterey pepper jack cheese makes it a meatless main dish
and kicks up the flavor. Original recipe called for regular sour
cream but I used the reduced-fat kind.


5 cups sliced cooked potatoes (about 5 to 6 medium)

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream diluted with 1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon dry minced onion

1 cup shredded Monterey pepper jack cheese, divided

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Arrange half the potatoes in a 2-quart
oblong glass casserole dish. Combine sour cream mixture and
onion. Spoon half this mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle with
1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat layers.
Combine melted butter with dry bread crumbs and sprinkle
over top. Bake until bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes. Recipe
makes 6 servings. Download PDF of Memo #2202

Mary’s Memo #2201


In this age of reduce/reuse/recycle, New Uses for Old Things is the original green idea introduced in Real Simple magazine in 2002. This year to celebrate Real Simple's 10th anniversary, they give us the encyclopedic version of New Uses for Old Things featuring innovative ideas for everything in your home from accordion folders to zippered plastic bags. I paid $13.99 for my copy at Barnes & Noble during the Christmas season but I'm

guessing that you can buy it for less at now. Some unusual things I read include restoring the shine to copper cookware by smearing a thin layer of catsup

onto tarnished pots with a cloth or paper towel. After 5 minutes rinse with warm water and towel-dry. Use mustard powder to deodorize smelly jars. Wash them in a solution of 1 teaspoon powdered mustard to 1 quart warm water. Also, layer paper plates between each china dish to keep it from chipping and use a paper clip dispenser to hold bobby pins on your vanity. These are just a few of the 799 new uses for old things published by Real Simple.


Who wouldn't get excited about a piece of equipment that cooks 2 pounds of French fries in one tablespoon of fat! T-Fal's Actifry is a low fat cooker that can do this. The

bad news is that it costs $299.95, a hefty price to pay! Although I have a weakness for new equipment I'll pass on this one.

I can't remember when I last made French fries at home but I occasionally order them in a restaurant, a far cheaper way to go when I'm hungry for them.


Are you guilty of throwing away food that's been in the cupboard, refrigerator or freezer? So how long is it safe to eat? Check out Real Simple's website for Surprising Expiration Dates for 77 different foods, cleaning products, beauty items and more plus tips on save-or-toss paperwork, clothes and even appliances.


Wasting food wastes not only money but also energy. Food production accounts for 16 percent of energy consumption in the U.S., and we throw away about one quarter of our food, according to a study in Environmental Science & Technology last year. By not wasting food, Americans could save as much as 350 million barrels of oil

a year, as well as reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills. Don't buy more food than you're likely to need, and save leftovers for later meals. In addition, make sure your refrigerator is at 40ºF or colder, to help prevent spoilage, and freeze fresh foods that may spoil before you have time to use them.

Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2011.


I can't emphasize enough how important it is to plan meals around Chief and Rays specials. Before you go to the supermarket study the newspaper insert in Wednesday's newspapers and think about the foods you can make with them. Look up the recipes you'll need and make a shopping list. You may have some of the ingredients on hand and if you do, use them before you buy more. Yes, this takes time, but if you are into saving money this is the way to go.

One of my favorite meats is boneless, skinless chicken thighs. When a recipe says 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves I am more likely to use 8 boneless, skinless thighs (2 per serving). Thighs are moister and less likely to overcook. I substituted 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves in Campbell's Soup Company's Asian Chicken & Rice Bake.


3/4 cup uncooked regular long grain rice

8 boneless, skinless thighs

1 can Campbell's Golden Mushroom Soup

(I prefer Campbell's Healthy Request Mushroom Soup)

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon garlic powder


Spread rice in 2-quart oblong baking dish. Top with chicken. Mix soup, water, soy sauce, vinegar, honey and garlic powder. Cover. Bake at 375ºF in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Sprinkle top with paprika. Recipe makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from Campbell's Soup recipe. Download PDF of Memo #2201

Mary’s Memo #2200


If I were to believe the media one would think food is going to be sky high in price this year. Sky high is an exaggeration but food will cost more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Plan your meals around the specials because there will still be foods on sale every week! Many things affect price. The freezing temperatures in Florida last month caused prices to rise. Supply and demand is always a factor. Bumper crops make a difference. We had one of the largest cranberry crops in history and it wasn’t surprising that they were at times priced as low as 99 cents for a 12-ounce package. Be assured that Chief and Rays’ produce buyer will be on the alert for fruit and vegetable savings on a wholesale level so he can pass lower prices on to you. That’s been true when food cost less and will be true when it costs more. No one at Chief or Rays told me to say this. I’m writing as one consumer to another. Because I do produce demos at the Bryan Chief I am more knowledgeable about what’s going on in that department. Eating more fruits and vegetables is as important now as it’s been in previous years. You’re getting more bang for your nutrition buck there than anywhere else in the store! That’s why I like being there.


I’m hearing that in 2012 the USDA will label meat and
poultry including nutrition information. Currently it is the
producers’ responsibility, and not always reliable.

Citrus fruits are cheaper than other fruits this time of
year so focus on them for predictable savings.

Walking may protect your gray matter, according to
the January issue of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. In a
study of 299 Pittsburgh seniors, those walking at least 72
blocks weekly had significantly greater gray matter volume
in subsequent MRI scans. Also in the January issue, exercise
protects elderly women from falls and fractures. 11 healthy
foods to try in 2011 are; sardines, quinoa (pronounced
keen-wah), Greek yogurt, avocados, chiles, mangoes,
pumpkin seeds, Chinese broccoli, garlic scapes (identified
by creamy, pointed tips and curling green stems with a mild
garlic flavor), lentils and chickpeas. Finally, Tufts reports
that Cynthia Harriman, director of Food and Nutrition
Strategies for the Whole Grains Council says that toasting
bread diminishes the nutritional value of whole wheat.
Toasting seems to slightly reduce the digestibility and
quality of proteins. Should you stop eating toast? Although
plain whole wheat bread is better, if you prefer toast be
sure to set the toaster control on light not dark!


Watch for cabbage sales to make Cajun Cabbage. In addition

to being inexpensive to make, it’s as flavorful as it gets!


3 lean bacon slices

1/2 medium head cabbage, coarsely shredded

(1) 14.5-oz. can Del Monte Diced Tomatoes with

Green Peppers & Onions

1/3 cup white vinegar

2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

1/8 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven. Drain, reserving drippings in pan. Stir in cabbage, tomatoes, vinegar, Cajun seasoning and Tabasco Sauce. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Before serving, chop bacon and sprinkle on top of cabbage mixture. Recipe makes 6 servings.

When rotisserie chicken is on sale make Baked Chicken and Rice Casserole. I replaced half and half in the original recipe with evaporated milk. Uncle Ben’s Original Rice and Wild Rice Mix is another item I buy when it’s specially priced, sometimes 10 for 10. I added the rice mixture minus the seasoning packet to my after Thanksgiving turkey soup in November.


(1) 6-oz. package Uncle Ben’s Original Rice & Wild

Rice Mix

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup chicken broth (use fat-free kind with no MSG)

2 cups rotisserie chicken

2-oz. jar chopped pimiento, drained

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Prepare rice and seasoning packet according to directions. Meanwhile, melt butter in large saucepan. Add onion and cook over low heat until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in evaporated milk and chicken broth. Stir constantly until thickened. Stir in chicken, pimiento, parsley, almonds and cooked rice mixture. Spoon into 2-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 400ºF oven for 30 minutes. Recipe makes 6 servings. Download PDF of Memo #2200