Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mary’s Memo #2255

     Advertisements for Ensure® Muscle Health claim that this new nutrition beverage helps counter the natural muscle loss that occurs with aging. Though it appears to be safe, it is not recommended as a way to tone up. Instead, go with what’s known to increase muscle mass: regular strength training and a diet with adequate calories and protein. You can easily get the amount of protein in a serving of Muscle Health with far fewer calories by drinking 1-1/2 cups of nonfat milk (165 calories) or eating a cup of nonfat or low-fat yogurt (130 to 140 calories) or two large eggs (145 calories). And if you eat a balanced diet, you don’t need a nutrient-fortified beverage.
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2012.


     Chef Renee Gabbett at the tapas class I attended during the holidays demonstrated a way to crack an egg that was new to me. She took two eggs and cracked them together and only one cracked. Not only that, there were no pieces of shell that dropped into what she was making. I have since tried this at home and it works!


     If you want to eat a smaller lunch, grab a handful of walnuts beforehand. When people were given five walnut halves to eat one hour before lunch, they ate fewer potato chips and more fruit than a control group who received 70 calories of crackers. Walnuts are not only good for your diet; they boost your heart and brain health. The tough part is restricting you to two and a half nuts.
Source: Brian Wansink, PhD, AARP THE MAGAZINE.

     For years I’ve talked about doing a program on observations I’ve made while working in the Bryan Chief produce department. I finally did it this fall for a church group in Bryan (contact me, if interested). Much of the talk is humorous. For example, a young couple was shopping for bananas and the man commented that they were too green. The response from the girl was that of course they were green; it was January, as if the month of the year had anything
to do with the stage of ripeness. But there’s a serious
side to my talk, also. Over 66 percent of people in Williams County are overweight or obese and people in Ohio are not far behind at 65 percent! Shocking statistics? You bet they are. Losing weight is not easy and I sympathize with those who have difficulty doing it but it’s worth the effort for your health’s sake. My advice: eat less and exercise more!STAIRWAY TO HEALTH
     You don’t have to join a gym or even change your exercise clothes to have free access to a fine piece of exercise equipment: stairs. Climbing stairs regularly can improve cardiovascular fitness and strength. Climbing stairs is primarily an aerobic activity. That is, it gives your heart and circulatory system a workout and it will improve leg strength, too. Start with 25 steps or so and gradually increase the number you climb. Keep your back straight or bend slightly forward from your hips. Going down stairs is also good exercise.
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, January 2012.

     I like potatoes just about any way they’re fixed. Potatoes fit into a diet plan because the potato is not fattening; it’s what’s added to them that can be the culprit. A favorite, low calorie potato recipe from daughter Mary Ann is Oven Browned Potatoes from the March 5, 1996, Mary’s Memo. She notes that the oil mixture keeps in the refrigerator so this can also be a 1 or 2 serving recipe, using just enough of the herb-seasoned oil to coat the number of potatoes you’re cooking at a time.


1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil2 cloves minced garlic1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary1 teaspoon kosher salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper10 medium red potatoesSweet paprikaIn a large mixing bowl combine oil, garlic, oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and set aside. Preheat oven to 425ºF with rack in the middle. Scrub and quarter the potatoes. Pat dry with a paper towel. Add potatoes to mixing bowl and with a rubber spatula stir and toss the potatoes to coat them with oil mixture. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Spread potatoes evenly in the pan, cut side up. Sprinkle with paprika to taste. Bake until potatoes
are browned. About 25 to 35 minutes or until tender
(check at 25 minutes). Serve immediately. Recipe makes 6 servings.
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Mary’s Memo #2254

     I make an effort to eat meatless at least two times a week and when I do eat meat it’s only once a day, whether in a sandwich or an entrée. I do cheat at holiday time (doesn’t everyone). I like fish and seafood and more often then not choose it over meat in a restaurant. Not only is it good for us but easier to digest. One alternative is macaroni and cheese but many recipes are loaded with fat calories. Not so with Hearty Macaroni and Cheese from the April 24, 1995, Mary’s Memo.


12 ounces (3 cups) uncooked elbow macaroni1-1/2 cups low-fat cottage cheese1 tablespoon flour1-1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk1/2 teaspoon kosher salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided2/3 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 2 bunches)2 tablespoons Dijon mustard2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs1 teaspoon canola oilPreheat oven to 375ºF. Spray shallow 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Heat large pot of water to boiling and cook macaroni until just tender. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl.In a blender or food processor, puree cottage cheese until smooth, about 1 minute; set aside.Place flour in a large saucepan over medium heat and gradually add milk. Bring to a boil and whisk in salt, pepper and cayenne. Whisking constantly, cook until mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Whisk in cottage cheese puree, 1-1/4 cups Cheddar cheese, scallions and mustard until well blended and cheese is melted. Add cheese mixture to cooked macaroni and toss to combine. Spoon into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup cheese. Mix bread crumbs with oil and sprinkle over cheese. Bake 25 minutes or until top is crusty and lightly browned. Recipe makes 6 servings.ACORN SKIN IS EDIBLE!
     I made this week’s roasted vegetable dish when I was in Naperville during the holidays. The only reason I haven’t used it until now is because we differed about eating the skin. I ate it but Mary Ann didn’t. I tried for days afterwards to find out if acorn skin is considered edible but to no avail. Mary Ann’s source for the recipe was Good Earth Institute, Naperville, IL, but I had no luck contacting them, either.
     Last night, however, Mary Ann found a Cooking Light blog that discussed the subject and both Jamie Oliver and Guy Fieri say acorn skin is edible and what’s good enough for Jamie and Guy is good enough for me! Like all winter squash, it’s hard to cut. I ask the produce people to quarter it so it’s easier for me to manage. If you have a problem cutting winter squash ask for help like I do.


1 medium acorn squash, seeded and sliced into 1-inch pieces3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise, then sliced in half (original recipe called for 2 carrots)2 tablespoons olive oil3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar1 teaspoon chili powder (recipe called for ancho chili powder which is hotter)1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground cumin1 tablespoon waterPreheat oven to 425ºF. In a small bowl combine olive oil, brown sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin and water. Place squash and carrots in gallon size plastic zip-lock storage bag, add marinade, close bag and shake to coat vegetables. Arrange squash and carrots in a single layer in a jelly roll pan. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Recipe makes 4 generous servings. You can also prepare
the mixture earlier for later baking.
Source: Adapted from Naperville, IL, Good Earth Institute recipe.CAN GUM MAKE YOU THINNER?
     Gum chewing burns only about 11 calories an hour. But if it keeps you from eating a candy bar, that’s a big plus. Studies on whether gum reduces appetite have produced conflicting findings. The latest study in the journal Appetite found that when women chewed gum 15 minutes, once an hour for three hours, they ate about 30 fewer calories when subsequently offered a snack, compared to when they hadn’t chewed gum. The women also said they felt less hungry and fuller after chewing the gum. Gum manufacturers have helped publicize these results. But each piece of gum had 5 to 10 calories, so the women didn’t actually cut down on calories significantly. Would sugarless gum have had the same effect? Maybe yes, maybe not.
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2012.
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Mary’s Memo #2253

     Several recent large-scale research reviews have provided the best evidence yet that chocolate, derived from the seeds of the cocoa tree, is good for your heart. Chocolate’s health benefits are largely attributed to polyphenol compounds called flavonoids, the same family of substances that are in tea, red wine, grape juice and other plant foods which have antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties.
     Chocolate may provide some heart-health benefits, especially if you eat it in place of other snacks and desserts that are high in calories and saturated fat. Choose the darkest chocolate that you like. Cocoa beans or some variation, such as cacao, chocolate liquor or cocoa mass, should be the first ingredient, not sugar.
     But even if it’s rich in flavonoids, think of chocolate as a treat, not a health food, because of its hefty calories. Fruits and vegetables are a better source of flavonoids on a daily basis. They have fewer calories and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, along with other healthy plant compounds and fiber.
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2012.


     My Food Lover’s Companion defines tapas (TAH-pahs), popular throughout Spain, “as appetizers but they can also form an entire meal and range from simple items such as olives or cubes of ham and cheese to more elaborate preparations like cold omelets, snails in a spicy sauce, stuffed peppers and miniature sandwiches.”
     The tapas class that Mary Ann and I attended after Christmas at Sur La Table in Naperville, IL, featured recipes that were suitable for a tapas meal. Some of them I liked, others I didn’t. By far my favorite was a vegetable stew served with garlic toasts. I had to substitute red wine vinegar for sherry vinegar (the alternative suggested in the recipe). I also cut the amount of garlic from 6 cloves to 3. Smoked paprika by McCormick® is available at Chief and Rays and on the advice of the chef that night I used half as much. Instead of treating it as an appetizer, I’m serving it as a meatless entrée.


1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I use light olive oil)3 cloves garlic, minced1 large onion, peeled and 1/4-inch diced1 large red bell pepper, cored and 1/4-inch diced1 large yellow bell pepper, cored and 1/4-inch diced2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and 1/4-inch diced(1) 28-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice1 Tbsp. regular paprika1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (1 tsp. dried)2 tsp. fresh thyme (3/4 tsp. dried)2 bay leaves1 tsp. smoked paprika2 tsp. kosher salt1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper2 tsp. sugar1/4 cup red wine vinegar1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves for garnishIn medium Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, peppers and zucchini and stir well to combine. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, regular paprika, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer stew until vegetables are very soft and stew is reduced in volume, about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in red wine vinegar. If needed, season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Recipe makes 24 appetizer servings.Serve on toasted baguette slices. Before toasting on a cookie sheet, brush tops with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Toast under broiler until golden. Rub each toast with a garlic clove half.VALENTINE'S DAY DESSERT
      My favorite pie is pecan and at banquets I confess to sitting where there’s a slice of it. Gloria Tusko of Bryan helped me with microwave classes in the 80s and loves this week’s recipe for microwave pecan pie as do I! Originally, the pie was made in a 700 watt oven while most microwaves are now 1100 watts so check at minimum time given or sooner. You can always add additional time if necessary.MICROWAVE PECAN PIE
(1) 9-inch baked pie shell1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)3 eggs1 cup dark corn syrup1/3 cup packed light brown sugar1 Tbsp. flour1 tsp. pure vanilla extract1-1/2 cups pecan halvesPut butter in large glass mixing bowl. Microwave on high 1/2 to 1 minute to melt. Add eggs, quickly beating with a fork to mix well. Blend in corn syrup, brown sugar, flour and vanilla. Stir in pecan halves. Pour filling into baked pie crust. Microwave on 50 percent power for 9 to 12 minutes or until top is dry and puffed. If center is not completely set, it will firm up as it cools. Cut into 8 servings.
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Mary’s Memo #2252

     When Cooking Light Magazine said The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook was one of their “top 100 cookbooks in the past 25 years” I knew I wanted it for my cookbook shelf. All over the country, people are hungry for information about buying and cooking seasonally, locally and sustainably, and no one knows more about this than Santa Monica-based
writer and teacher Amelia Saltsman. Amelia brings her vast knowledge and experience together in this award winning cookbook. Using one market as a lens, Saltsman tells the story of farmers’ markets everywhere and provides more than 100 recipes so home cooks around the country can create flavorful, uncomplicated dishes using ingredients found at their local markets. She also offers a seasonal guide to fruits and vegetables and countless tips on how to select and store them.
     Meyer lemons are available from October through May. Botanists say they’re a cross between a lemon and orange, sweeter and less acidic than a regular lemon. Chief and Rays have Meyer lemons so I picked Ultimate-Pucker Lemon Bars to share with Memo readers.


1/2 cup powdered sugar2 cups flour1/4 teaspoon salt1 cup (1/2 lb) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch piecesFilling:
4 eggs1-1/2 cup granulated sugar1/2 cup Meyer lemon juiceZest of 2 Meyer lemons1/4 cup flour     Preheat oven to 350ºF. To make crust, in a bowl stir together the flour, powdered sugar and salt. Add butter and cut it in with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Gently pat mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake until just lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes.     Meanwhile make filling. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, Meyer lemon juice, zest and flour until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Pour filling over partially baked crust. Continue to bake until the filling is set and crust is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into bars. Recipe makes 24.Source: The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook by Amelia Saltsman (Blenheim Press, August 2007; $22.95/softcover). Learn more about Amelia on her website:
     Be careful when you handle hot Pyrex® cookware. It can shatter when removed from the heat or exposed to an extreme change in temperature (such as putting it in cold water after heating), according to many reports. Though Pyrex® is supposed to withstand such temperature changes, it can weaken with age, and some reported accidents involved relatively new dishes. Be as cautious with Pyrex® as you would with any glass cookware: keep your face away from the dish, use oven gloves
and keep the kids away from the hot dishes.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, January 2012.

     This advice persists despite evidence of scientific support. And while you might drink extra water as part of a weight-loss regimen, it’s not clear that doing so will help you lose weight. A study found that consuming food with a high water content, like soup, increased the feeling of fullness and reduced hunger
but drinking the same amount of water as a beverage with the same food did not. Some studies suggest that drinking a lot of water might boost metabolism; others suggest it doesn’t. Also unsubstantiated is the Institute of Medicine report that most healthy people get the water they need by letting their thirst guide them and by consuming it through various sources including other liquids and food.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, January 2012.

     If you’re concerned about arsenic in your orange juice, buy Florida's Natural® brand that isn’t made from concentrate that probably came from Brazil. Even when other orange juice is on sale I prefer Florida's Natural® juice. Read labels carefully and decide for yourself.


 Eat breakfast regularly. Weigh yourself weekly. T rack food intake. Count calories and fat grams. Limit eating out. Limit food variety and don’t splurge on holidays. Watch fewer than 10 hours a week of TV.Successful dieters average about 1,800 calories a day, with less than 30% of those calories from fat. According to Susan B. Roberts, PhD, director of Tufts University Energy Metabolism Laboratory, “catching problems quickly is a major route to ongoing success, which is why regular weighing and tracking what you eat is so valuable.”
Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, January 2012.
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