Monthly Archives: October 2011

Mary’s Memo #2238

     If you think of pumpkin primarily in connection with Halloween jack-o-lanterns or Thanksgiving pie, you’re missing out on a nutritional powerhouse of a vegetable.
     “Pumpkin’s bright orange color is due to its abundance of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that your body converts to vitamin A,” says Georgia Giannopoulos, RD, CDN, CNSC, a dietitian at Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Vitamin A is essential for eye health; an early sign of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness, although most people who enjoy a variety of healthy food get all the vitamin A they need.” Vitamin A also plays an important role in bone growth and helps regulate the immune system, your primary defense against infections.
     Pumpkin is a nutrient dense food, meaning it offers a lot of nutrition in a low-calorie package …. just 49 calories per one cup of cooked pumpkin. According to Giannopoulos, “Both fresh and canned 100% pumpkin are nutritious, delicious and versatile.” Pumpkins that are to be used for cooking are often referred to as sugar or pie pumpkin. An ideal one is about the size of a cantaloupe and it is a deep orange color. Its skin is hard and smooth without bruises or holes. Like other
squashes, pumpkins are dense and firm so exercise caution when cutting.
     Cut pie pumpkin into cubes and roast with onions, peppers and carrots for a hearty nutritious side dish. Pumpkin cubes can also be tossed into soups, stews or chili. For quicker cooking, cut pumpkin into small cubes and boil for 10 minutes or microwave for 5 minutes before adding to your soup pot.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, October 2011.

     Some of you may puree your own pumpkin for pies and other desserts but I have been buying Libby’s® and using their pumpkin pie recipe my entire life. It’s been on the label as long as I can remember so a lot of people must be doing the same. I’ve mentioned before that I like Libby’s® filling so much that I bake it in custard cups to eat. Ohio is one of the top ten producers of pumpkins in the USA.
     Since this week’s memo is all about pumpkin we’re sharing a pumpkin muffin and a pumpkin brownie to make now through the holidays.

4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour1-3/4 teaspoons baking soda1 teaspoon salt2-3/4 cups raisins3/4 cup chopped walnuts2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice4 large eggs2-1/2 cups canned pumpkin1 cup butter, melted1 cup waterIn a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, raisins, walnuts and spice. Make a well in the center of mixture. Combine egg, pumpkin, butter and water; add the dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into paperlined muffin pans, filling 2/3rds full. Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out dry. Recipe makes 3.5 dozen (can be frozen).
Source: Adapted from recipe in Christmas with Southern Living Cookbook, 1997.
PS: Chief and Rays have fall motif paper muffin cup liners for a more attractive presentation.

3/4 cup unsifted all-purpose flour3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon baking soda1 egg, beaten1/4 cup butter, softened1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1 cup packed light brown sugar1 cup pumpkin puree1/4 cup chopped walnuts1 cup butterscotch chipsIn mixing bowl combine flour, oatmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl blend egg, softened butter, vanilla, brown sugar and pumpkin. Stir in nuts and butterscotch chips. Spread evenly into buttered 8x8x2-inch pan. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into 24 bars.

     For years when I carved a jack-o-lantern for the kids I threw away the pumpkin seeds inside. And then a good friend shared a recipe for toasting them. The recipe is in Thank You, I’m Glad You Liked It. In case you don’t have my cookbook or you’ve never toasted pumpkin seeds here’s how you do it: In this particular recipe just wipe away excess fiber that clings to the seeds; don’t wash. Toss 2 cups of pumpkin seeds with 2 tablespoons of melted butter or olive oil and spread in a single layer in a shallow pan. Salt lightly. Bake in 250ºF oven for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Download PDF of Memo #2238

Mary’s Memo #2237

     The Mediterranean diet stands out because it benefit both cognitive function and emotional well-being. It favors fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and red wine (in moderation), while limiting dairy, red meat and refined carbohydrates. Several large studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and depression in adults. The more closely the participants followed it, the better their chances were of staying mentally alert and emotionally stable over a subsequent period. In one study, those with the poorest adherence to the diet had a 40 percent greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet helps keep your arteries and heart healthier, which in turn helps keep your brain supplied with blood and oxygen. But at least one follow-up study concluded that the diet’s benefits to the brain were independent of its vascular
effects. Scientists think they might derive from some combination of these nutrients, all abundant in the diet. This includes Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B6, B12, folate and magnesium.
     Did you know that flavors such as sage and turmeric might help protect your brain? Sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical crucial for memory thinking. Curcumin, the substance that gives turmeric its yellow color, might keep Alzheimer’s disease from progressing by countering the accumulation of destructive brain proteins and
curbing inflammation.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, October 2011.

     This year is the 75th anniversary of Newell’s Homer Laughlin China Company’s Fiesta dinnerware. Believe it or not, my maternal grandmother preferred new-style dishes to old and loved Fiesta when it first came out. To celebrate the occasion, Fiesta, now made in West Virginia, has introduced two sizes of lemonade pitchers including a new color, Marigold.
For more information, go to


     Most of the time I concentrate on food in the memo but the supermarket is a good place to buy cleaning supplies as well. One that I like is Bar Keeper’s Friend®. I have a can in the kitchen and also the bathroom because it cleans multiple surfaces and it removes rust.
     Cleaning cloths I also wouldn’t be without are the microfiber ones that are good for dusting furniture, window blinds and much more. Use the cloths dry, dampened with tap water or with your favorite cleaner or cleanser. Several years ago a friend gave me a couple to try and I haven’t been without them since.

     A Bryan Chief shopper asked me this week why snickerdoodles call for cream of tartar. In addition to adding volume and stability to egg whites, cream of tartar is the acid in some baking powders and has a leavening effect in baked goods. The chemical name for cream of tartar is potassium hydrogen tartrate and it’s a by product of wine making. When added to cookies and cakes it helps them rise while giving them a more delicate crumb.

     One year for Christmas Mary Ann with the help of siblings and my sister put together a cookbook of recipes of mine that they liked best. Chris named Sour Cream Porcupines as one of his favorites. It was an entrée I made often when we were a family of six. It’s a money saver, too. Since the original recipe I have cut the amount of salt in half, use Campbell's Healthy Request ® instead of regular mushroom soup, Better Than Bouillon ® because it’s MSG-free and I prefer its flavor to regular bouillon cubes and I’m likely to use reduced-fat sour cream instead of regular to cut the calories.

1-1/2 pounds ground beef or ground chuck1/3 cup Minute® Rice1 teaspoon paprika1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 cup chopped onion2 tablespoons canola oil1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon®1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request® Cream of Mushroom soup1 cup reduced-fat sour creamCombine ground beef or ground chuck with rice, paprika, salt and onion. Shape into 16 to 20 meatballs. In a 10 to 12-inch skillet brown meat balls in hot canola oil. Drain meat balls and arrange in a 1.5-quart round casserole dish. Drain fat from skillet. Combine bouillon, Worcestershire sauce and soup. Heat slowly until well blended. Add sour cream and pour mixture over meatballs. Bake uncovered in preheated 350ºF oven for 45 minutes. Serve with noodles or mashed
potatoes. Recipe makes 4 to 6 servings. Download PDF of Memo #2237

Mary’s Memo #2236

     Like Dr. Phil, Oprah Winfrey launched the career
of Dr. Oz as a TV personality. Yes, he is a noted cardiologist and continues to see patients but he is also an entertainer who has won daytime Emmys for his show. Although his many followers take what he says as gospel truth, his number one job today is entertaining and he’s making a lot of money doing it. I would agree with my Oz friends that he has more people thinking about what’s good for them to eat but many days he does it in an outrageous way! Scaring people about apple juice containing dangerous amounts of arsenic is a case in point. The FDA quickly jumped on this Oz assertion as did manufacturers of the juices that are available. Oz claimed that most apple juice sold in supermarkets
including Chief and Rays is made with concentrate that comes from other countries including China. It’s true because I made a point of checking labels at the Bryan Chief. Although all brands are within safe levels to drink, Mott’s® apple juice is made with 100% product grown in the USA, a real selling point if you have concerns about serving apple juice to your family. With that USA-made label, it’s the one I would buy, even though it costs a little more.
     As you know, I’m concerned about food that comes
from China and other Asian countries and prefer USA
and Canadian produce. Too many times China has been in hot water over something made in that country. Unfortunately, there are seasons during the year that if I want certain foods I reluctantly accept what is available and trust our USDA and FDA to make sure it’s safe to eat. Personally, I don’t buy food from China but that doesn’t mean you need to do the same. If it were not safe to eat Chief and Rays wouldn’t be selling it!
     I don’t cook anything in plastic containers regardless of the origin but don’t like them for food storage if they’re not made in the USA. It’s hard to find a gadget or kitchen appliance that is USA made (Nordic is an exception). Label may look like it’s made here but it isn’t! Here again, I rely on the USDA, FDA and Consumer Products Safety Commission to be sure these items are safe to use and encourage you to do the same. THERE YOU GO AGAIN!
     I like Sargento® deli sliced cheese but they recently changed the package amount from 12 to 11 slices. I found this out when I shopped for Swiss cheese slices to make this week’s Philly Cheese Steak Strata that called for (12) 3/4-ounce slices. The original recipe is from Land O'Lakes® but their cheese and eggs are something Chief and Rays don’t carry. So those are the first changes I made to the recipe. And no, I didn’t buy a second package of cheese but settled for 11 slices. Also, shredded roast beef was suggested and I used chipped deli roast beef knowing you don’t always have leftover roast beef to make this. Otherwise, I left the recipe in tact. This entrée has 380 calories, so it’s within my guidelines for main dishes being no more than 400. With only 1 cup of deli chipped roast beef, a trifle over 1/4 pound, it’s not costly to make but has plenty of protein from other sources.


1 tablespoon butter1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced1 medium sweet onion, sliced thin11 thin slices of Sargento® Natural Aged Swiss4 cups cubed 3/4-inch French bread slices1 cup chipped deli roast beef1 cup milk1/4 cup all purpose flour4 large eggs, beaten2 tablespoons A-1® Steak Sauce     Melt butter in 10-inch skillet until sizzling. Add onions and bell pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until crisp tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
     Stack cheese slices; cut into thin strips and coarsely
chop. Arrange 2 cups bread cubes in buttered 2 quart
oblong glass baking dish. Top with half the beef, half the pepper mixture and half the cheese. Repeat layers ending with cheese. Whisk together the milk, flour, eggs and steak sauce. Pour evenly over ingredients in baking dish. Cover; refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. To bake, preheat oven to 375ºF. Bake, covered with foil, 20 minutes. Uncover; continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into 6 servings. Leftovers will freeze.
Source: Adapted from Land O'Lakes® recipe. Download PDF of Memo #2236

Mary’s Memo #2235

     I recently read that a Brazilian researcher, Gustavo Castro, an environmental chemist at Sao Paulo State University, who happens to be a banana lover, is helping remake the image of the peeling. The peel, it turns out, can take water, dirtied by copper and lead in mining operations or other activities, and help turn it into drinking water. The peels performed well or better than conventional filtering materials for a lot less money. The findings were published earlier this year in Chemistry Research, a publication of the American Chemical Society. Don’t reach for your glass yet because it’s not ready for human consumption.

     Canned tuna is a good way to get lean protein, omega-3 fats, selenium, vitamin D, B vitamins and other nutrients but there are lingering concerns about mercury. Nearly all fish has traces of methyl mercury, a form of mercury that has neurotoxic effects, especially in developing brains; large fish have more. White tuna generally has more than light tuna, which comes from smaller fish, though the levels vary widely. And some testing has shown that light tuna also has amounts high enough to be of concern.
     The effects of low levels of mercury in adults is not clear, but a recent Harvard study concluded that relatively high intakes do not increase cardiovascular disease risk, as some had feared. Still it’s reasonable to limit your exposure.
     In particular, the FDA says that young children and pregnant women should eat no more than 12-ounces of low mercury fish a week, which includes canned light tuna but no more than 6-ounces of white tuna a week. Albacore is white tuna.
     Water-packed tuna is usually preferable because it has fewer calories and retains more omega 3’s. Oil-packed chunk tuna absorbs more oil than solid white, even if you drain it. On the other hand, the oil that tuna is packed in, often soybean oil, is unsaturated and heart-healthy. That said unless you are watching your calories, choose whichever you prefer.
     To get a sense of how much tuna (and other fish) you can eat before exceeding mercury limits set by the government, several advocate groups provide “mercury calculators.” One is at
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, October 2011.


     I may not include calories with every memo recipe but you can be sure that recipes I use have less than 400, preferably fewer than 300, whether it’s an entrée or a dessert.I’ve had a problem with many recent Pillsbury® Bake-Off® winners that have in excess of 500 calories. With the weight problem that we have in America, it beats me why Pillsbury® is not influenced by calorie count.
     Don’t tell me it’s none of my business what people eat because what people eat is my business. Mary’s Memo is a “bully pulpit” to promote healthy eating. The same is true when I’m serving samples at the Bryan Chief. Shoppers may think it’s just a tasting experience but my real goal is to educate the consumer, kids included, about making better food choices. Some people ask if I’ve removed the calories. No, but like memo recipes, most will be less than 300 calories per serving and never over 400!

     I can make a meal on soup and salad. Daughter Mary Ann made this week’s Paula Deen recipe with Swiss chard but I used Chief’s ready-to-use chopped kale. Oregano was Mary Ann’s idea and both of us cooked the greens half as long as Paula did. Bryan tasters gave it a thumbs up and many bought the ingredients to make it before they left the store.

1.22-lb. package lean hot Italian sausage, casings removed1 cup chopped onion2 cloves garlic, minced6 cups low-sodium chicken broth(2) 16-ounce cans Bush® navy beans, rinsed and drained1-1/2 teaspoons dried oreganoCracked pepper to taste4 cups chopped kaleIn large Dutch oven cook sausage, onions and garlic over medium-high heat until sausage is browned and crumbly, about 6 minutes. Drain fat if necessary. Stir in broth, beans and oregano. Add pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add kale, cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Recipe makes 10 servings. Serve with corn muffins, if desired.
Source: Adapted from a Paula Deen recipe.

     I’m sorry that candy corn I buy is made in Mexico instead of the US but it doesn’t stop me from combining candy corn with salted peanuts to munch on this time of year. The amount of each is up to you but I use 2 bags of candy corn and 16-ounces of peanuts. Other things you might add include raisins and/or red hots. Yum! Download PDF of Memo #2235

Mary’s Memo #2234

     Apples are more likely to have pesticide residue than other common fruits and vegetables, according to the Environmental Working Group. 98% of apples tested positive for pesticides according to data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, even though most samples were washed and peeled before testing. Other items most likely to contain pesticides include celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach and imported grapes. The good news is that U.S. health authorities say that all the pesticide levels were within recommended limits. To avoid pesticides altogether, purchase organic produce, for which pesticide use is prohibited.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College for Women’s Nutrition Connection, August 2011.
PS: I’ve watched many a person simply rub an apple on his sleeve before eating but not me! Always scrub with a fruit and vegetable brush whether it’s organic or not.

     I’ve been out to breakfast a couple times recently. Most menus feature three egg omelets. Why three eggs when two egg omelets are adequate for anyone!
     That makes me wonder why there are 10 hot dogs per package and eight or a dozen buns in which to put them? Why do Bob Evans and Johnsonville continue making sausage products with MSG when most food companies are phasing it out?
     Why doesn’t Ballreich stop processing potato chips in hydrogenated fat so they’ll be trans fat-free like leading competitor, Lays, that are Trans fat and MSG-free except Lays Baked Potato Chips? Having said that why the MSG in them?


     I hate to say it but the same problem that plagues half the human population affects about 35 million dogs in the US. It’s even worse for cats because 54 million of them are overweight or obese! You’re not doing your pet a favor by feeding them table scraps and extra treats. I’ve had four miniature dachshunds.
Maggie is the most slender of the four. Although she gets a spoonful of ice cream when I have it for dessert and about 1.5" of my daily banana chopped, that’s about it for human food. She’s on Hill’s Light dog food. Her treats for doing her duty are a few pellets of dog food or her daily vitamin. She weighs in between
7 and 8 pounds. Like humans, dogs need exercise. When I’m tired I could talk myself out of walking but Maggie is the prime motivator more days than not and the sooner we do it, the more likely it will happen!FROM THE COOKBOOK SHELF
     I have close to a dozen of Gwen McKee and Janet Mosely’s The Best of the Best State Cookbook Series featuring recipes from some of each state’s community cookbooks. My latest is from Washington. Apple Blackberry Crisp caught my attention because ‘tis the season for apple desserts and fresh blackberries add a new dimension to an old dessert favorite.


6 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices2 cups fresh blackberries1/2 cup sugar2 tablespoons flourPreheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Arrange apples in baking dish. Top with blackberries. Sprinkle with sugar and flour.

1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)1/2 cup flour1/2 cup chopped walnuts1/3 cup butter, melted1/2 cup packed light brown sugar1 teaspoon cinnamonCombine oats, flour, nuts, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl till crumbly. Sprinkle Topping evenly over Filling. Bake until fruit is soft and bubbly and Topping is browned, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm, topped with ice cream (optional). Recipe makes 6 servings.
Source: Best of the Best from Washington Cookbook, via Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks, St John Vianney Altar Society, Spokane, WA.


     Forty-five percent of colorectal cancer cases could be prevented if people ate less meat, drank less alcohol, ate more foods high in fiber and exercised more frequently. These findings were announced in a report released in May 2011 by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer’s
Continuous Update Project (CUP) panel of experts. “This report is the most comprehensive and systematic review ever conducted on the overall body of evidence linking red meat, fiber and colorectal cancer,” says Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, one of the panel members who reviewed new and existing evidence gathered by scientists at Imperial College London. Dr. Bandera is Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Cancer
Institute of New Jersey.
Source: DukeMedicine Health News, September  2011. Download PDF of Memo #2234