Vegetarian for a day? Why not! Every once in awhile, I look back at my eats for the day and realize it was completely vegetarian. I think, "Hmmm, I could do this all the time!" But then I remember my love for buffalo chicken wings and bacon. However, I do plan one or two meatless dinners each week. It's an easy way to stay health-minded, and it saves a bit of money at the grocery store. Also, Lent is quickly approaching... (March 5! Get your Lenten resolutions ready!) Many people choose to eat meatless on Fridays during Lent. Growing up, I went to a parochial school, and every Friday our lunch was either cheese pizza boats or a fish clipper on a bun. Oh, the memories. Followed by a trip with my family to the fish fry at the local Knights of Columbus hall every Friday night. I thought I'd share a meatless meal that's not what you would typically see - Great Greens Pasta. It's a flavorful pasta dish with a spinach-basil sauce, topped with juicy and sweet roasted grape tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. It's also very healthy - not a ton of cream or oil, so you can feel good about this dish! Before roasting[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3575" align="aligncenter" width="384"] After roasting[/caption] While the tomatoes are roasting, get your spaghetti noodles boiling. Then, start the sauce. Saute some onion and garlic in a little butter, then add some fresh baby spinach to wilt.
FROM THE COOKBOOK SHELF
I love the concept of having a meal cooked in a mug in the microwave! Whether you’re dining solo, pressed for time, living in a dorm, traveling in an RV or eating at the office 250 Meals in a Mug, Delicious Homemade Meals in Minutes by Camilla V. Saulsbury is a must have cookbook! These individual portion-sized recipes will take you through morning breakfast to late afternoon snacks to satisfying suppers with just a quick trip to the microwave, omitting hours of stove top simmering and baking. The author has stripped away all the timeconsuming steps as well as the artificial ingredients found in boxed meals. Most of the recipes can be created from scratch in less time than it takes to defrost a processed meal. You’ll also appreciate the helpful tips she gives in addition to the recipes. For example, we’re sharing Pesto Chicken Couscous and Camilla suggests replacing 1/2 cup of canned chicken with deli chicken.
Camilla Saulsbury is a writer, recipe developer, fitness trainer, endurance athlete and creator of the healthy food blog. She also holds a PhD in sociology with specialization in food studies, health and medicine. She has been featured on the Food Network, Today, Good Morning America Health, QVC and in multiple publications including the New York Times, Cooking Light, Southern Living, Clean Eating, Cosmo Girl, Food Network Magazine and Pilates Style. A native of the San Francisco Bay area, she currently lives in Texas with her husband and son.
PESTO CHICKEN COUSCOUS
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 cup couscous
• 1/2 cup cutup cooked chicken
• 3 tablespoons basil pesto
• Salt and ground pepper
• 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
In a 16-ounce mug, microwave water on high for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 minutes or until water is boiling. Stir in couscous. Cover with a plate and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in chicken and pesto. Microwave on high for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Source: 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla Saulsbury (www. robertrose.ca), March 2014, $24.95. Order from Amazon.com or look for it at your favorite bookstore.
BLOG RECIPES MAY NOT BE HEALTHY
Keep an eye on the healthfulness of recipes you find on the internet. Nutritionists at Simmons College in Boston analyzed 96 random entrée recipes from six popular blogs, including SimplyRecipes.com and that the sampled recipes were generally reasonable in terms of calories (typically 650 per serving) but tended to be high in saturated fat and sodium and low in fiber. Our experts recommend scanning the ingredients for items high in saturated fat, such as butter, cheese and cream. You might be able to substitute lower-fat versions. And if the recipe calls for salt, consider cutting the amount by half or more.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, February 2014.
SAVOR YOUR FOOD AND AVOID WEIGHT GAIN
If you slow down when you are eating, you could consume fewer calories, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. For the study, the “slow” meal, which consumed over an average of 22 minutes, involved small bites and deliberate chewing. The “fast” meal, which was consumed in an average of nine minutes, involved large bites and quick chewing. The participants who ate slowly consumed 88 fewer calories than those who ate more rapidly. Slower eating may allow people to better sense their feelings of hunger and fullness. Slow eaters also consumed more water during their meals, adding a feeling of fullness.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, March, 2014.
HAVE YOU TRIED THIS?
I have bad mouthed Johnsonville for the monosodium glutamate in their sausage products but they do have some without MSG including Johnsonville Chicken or Turkey Sausage, available with apple or cheese added. My personal favorite is Chicken Sausage with Apple.
GRILLED FRESH PINEAPPLE
Some brave souls grill outside in the wintertime but I’m not one of them! That said, I adapted an outdoor grilling recipe for indoor cooking on a Cuisinart Griddler (a George Foreman will also work or a grill that works on your range top).
GRILLED FRESH PINEAPPLE
• 1 whole fresh pineapple
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Trim, core and peel pineapple. Remove any eyes with a paring knife. Quarter pineapple, cutting skin away. Cut each quarter slice into four pieces (two pieces lengthwise and two crosswise, about three inches by one inch). Brush grids with Grill Pam. Whisk honey and lemon juice together and brush on both sides of pineapple wedges. Cook wedges four minutes on both sides, just long enough to make grill marks on the surface. Brush again with honey-lemon mixture before serving. Recipe serves 6.
Source: Adapted from recipe at WhatsCookingAmerica.net.
One of my absolute favorite meals to prepare during the cold days of winter is a big pot of soup. There's just something about it simmering on the stovetop, filling your house with delicious smells. It warms you from the inside out. Chicken Spinach Gnocchi Soup is a riff on one of my favorite soups from a very popular restaurant chain. (A really delicious place to eat soup, salad, and breadsticks!)
Chicken Spinach Gnocchi SoupServings/Yield: 6 servings
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- ½ cup diced celery
- 2 tbsp. minced garlic
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 tsp. thyme
- 3/4 tsp. parsley
- 2 cups diced cooked chicken
- 10-oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 lb. potato gnocchi
FROZEN PRODUCE AS GOOD AS FRESH
Frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh and superior in vitamin and mineral content to fresh stored in the refrigerator for a few days. That’s the conclusion of University of Georgia researchers who compared nutrients in supermarket- purchased frozen and fresh blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, green beans, corn, spinach, cauliflower and green peas. The fresh produce was also tested after being stored in the refrigerator for five days, after which it showed losses of vitamin A, vitamin C and folate.
Source: Tufts Health& Nutrition Letter, February 2014.
SIDE DISH OR QUICK APPETIZER
Although Easy Fiesta Beans is a side dish, I served it as an appetizer at the Bryan Chief before Super Bowl Sunday. The salsa that I used in the recipe was Gourmet Style Salsa available in the produce department. In addition, I cut additional calories by using reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese instead of regular.
EASY FIESTA BEAN DIP
• 1 (16-oz) can Old El Paso brand fat-free refried beans
• 1 (15-oz) can no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed and drained
• 1/2 cup Gourmet Style Salsa (medium)
• 2/3 cup reduced-fat shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
• 4 green scallions, sliced
Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Combine refried beans, salsa and 1/3 cup of cheese in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture is hot and cheese is melted, about 6 to 8 minutes. Spray a 2-quart oblong baking dish with non-stick coating. Spoon bean mixture into dish and sprinkle top with remaining 1/3 cup cheese and scallions. Broil until the cheese is lightly browned. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.
Source: Adapted from Eating Well Magazine recipe.
IS YOUR KITCHEN MAKING YOU FAT?
If you are struggling to eat better and maintain a healthy weight, your kitchen may be sabotaging your efforts. Researchers have studied the “food environment” for years, looking at such factors as how advertising, packaging and distraction make people eat more. More recently they’ve turned their attention to the impact of architectural design on eating behavior and how kitchens and other rooms can be laid out to be conducive to healthy eating. In particular, researchers are looking at where they store food, what they look at when they eat and other variables to determine what encourages healthy eating and what discourages it. If occupants have to get up and walk through a doorway or up steps to get their food, might they eat less? If there’s a window in the kitchen overlooking a garden, will they eat more produce? Other variables in rooms, such as the lighting, air circulation, sounds and colors can also affect what people eat. The field of designing “healthy” kitchens and even entire buildings is still in its infancy. Meantime, here are a few simple kitchen changes you can make, gleaned from preliminary research.
Keep unhealthy foods out of sight and healthy ones within easy reach. Studies have shown that the more visible and accessible a food is, the higher the consumption for better or worse. More spacious and pleasant kitchens have been linked to better food purchases and increased desire to cook (so you don’t have to rely on convenient microwave meals). You can’t change the size of your space easily but you can try rearranging appliances and utensils in ways that make the space more efficient, which makes it easier to cook and thus motivate you to prepare meals with more whole foods. To avoid overeating, don’t make the kitchen your hangout. Your kitchen chairs should be comfortable enough to sit on for the duration of a meal, but not so comfortable that you want to lounge in them all evening.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2014.
In spite of the fact that my daughter Mary Ann says gelatin salads are a “my generation thing,” I like them and there’s usually one like this week’s recipe in my refrigerator.
DILLED CUCUMBER MOUSSE
• 4 envelopes Knox Gelatin
• 1/2 cup cold water
• 1 cup boiling water
• 2 cups Light Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
• 1 bunch scallions, sliced
• 2 tablespoons fresh or frozen lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon dill weed
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
• 1 European cucumber, peeled and chopped
Soften gelatin in cold water. Add boiling water and mix until gelatin is dissolved and clear. Add mayonnaise, scallions, lemon juice, dill weed, salt and red pepper sauce; whisk together until well blended. Add chopped cucumber and spoon mixture into 2 quart oblong dish. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
Valentine's Day is coming up this week... the perfect excuse to spend some extra time in the kitchen! Valentine's Day seems to be the chocolate lover's holiday (and I love chocolate), so I always make my husband some sort of chocolatey dessert. You know, because he is such a sweets lover. (He actually doesn't have that much of a sweet tooth, but I do, so I make him a fun dessert every year anyway.) This Chocolate Mousse is the perfect treat for Valentine's Day. It's light and fluffy, and flavored with rich chocolate. It seems so gourmet, too, but it's pretty simple to make. It just takes a bit of patience, and either an electric hand mixer or stand mixer. I also love that you have to make it in advance... that way if you are cooking an extravagant 4-course feast, you won't have to worry about preparing dessert at the same time. It will be ready and waiting in the fridge! Let's get started. Start by whipping up 1 cup of heavy cream until stiff peaks form. (You could use Cool Whip here, but if you're making the real deal, you might as well use the real deal.) Place it in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the mousse. Next, combine a packet of unflavored gelatin with some water and sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the gelatin and sugar dissolve. The gelatin is what helps the mousse set up. Once the gelatin and sugar are dissolved, add in 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, stirring until melted. When the chocolate is melted, beat in 4 egg yolks with an electric mixer. (Or a lot of elbow grease.) While the chocolate is melting, whip up the 4 remaining egg whites from the egg yolks used with the chocolate. Place them in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high until stiff peaks form. It's really important to make sure that you don't get ANY yolk in with the whites, or it won't whip up. Gradually add some sugar until very stiff peaks form. Now you're ready to put together the mousse! Start by folding the chocolate mixture into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Very carefully, cut down through the center of the two mixtures and bring the bottom mixture back up to the top. You do NOT want to stir. This will deflate the mousse. Once the chocolate is folded in, fold in the whipped cream. Distribute evenly among dessert bowls or punch cups and refrigerate until firm. Serve topped with additional whipped cream and/or raspberries. Mmmm, so chocolatey and rich.
Chocolate MousseServings/Yield: 6-8 servings
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- ⅔ cup sugar, divided
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
My generation has seen more changes than any other but there’s still something that hasn’t changed and that’s the little conversation hearts available between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day. The Necco Company based in Revere, MA manufacturers eight billion of them year round under the name Sweethearts. Granted, the sayings on the candy are contemporary and there are new flavors like green apple and blue raspberry in this year’s bag, tastes I don’t recall from my childhood.
GET SLIMMER WITH DINNER
Families that eat together without the television on and stay seated until everyone has finished have children with lower weights and body mass indexes (BMIs), a recent study reported. In fact, eating anywhere other than the kitchen or dining room was related to higher body mass index in both parents and children, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, a co-author of the study. Wansink’s team compared BMIs and family rituals of 190 parents and 148 children, and concluded that strong, positive socialization during family dinners might override a child’s desire to overeat.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, February 2014.
AVOID BOREDOM BY BAKING
There were days in January when I couldn’t leave the house and one of the things I did was test this week’s Buttermilk Drop Biscuit recipe. Original recipe said it made 7 biscuits and they were huge! Not only that, one biscuit had 273 calories including 125 from fat. Although I love biscuits, I thought they should be smaller so I made a dozen the second time and they were big enough. I also baked them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment instead of a cast iron biscuit pan (didn’t know there was such a pan) or oven-proof cast iron skillet or griddle. Done my way, they are still light and fluffy and reheat beautifully. It’s a good way to use leftover buttermilk, a problem some of you have mentioned to me.
BUTTERMILK DROP BISCUITS
• 2 cups unsifted, all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
• 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cream of tartar and salt. Cut cold butter into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or fork and knife method. The mixture should have a course crumb consistency. Process goes faster if butter is cut into several chunks. Pour in the buttermilk and stir just until everything is blended. Do not over-mix. Using an ice cream scoop, drop dough onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden and cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Recipe makes 1 dozen biscuits. Serve with your favorite jelly or jam or use for shortcake or a base for creamed tuna, chicken, dried beef, etc. Recipe makes 1 dozen biscuits. Leftovers
SPOTLIGHT ON CLEMENTINES
This is the peak season for the clementine, a member of the tangerine family. They’re thin-skinned and usually seedless. For Valentine’s Day make a Chocolate Clementine Cake for family and friends.
CHOCOLATE CLEMENTINE CAKE
• 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 cup butter, cut into pieces
• 7 large eggs, separated
• 1 cup sugar, divided
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons grated clementine zest (about 2 clementines)
• 2 medium clementines, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 3 tablespoons Triple Sec orange liqueur
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Possible garnishes: Hot Fudge Sauce, sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour parchment, removing excess flour; set aside. Stir together chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. Beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl at medium speed with an electric mixer until pale and thick. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until blended, stopping to scrape down sides. Stir in zest, chopped clementines, membrane removed, and orange liqueur. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl at medium-high speed until foamy. Add salt and remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third egg white mixture into chocolate mixture; repeat. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake in 350ºF oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. (Cracks will form on top of cake.) Remove cake to a wire rack. Use a sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Cool slightly. Remove sides of springform pan. Invert cake onto serving plate and remove springform bottom and parchment paper. Serve warm with one of the suggested toppings. Recipe makes 12 to 16 servings.
Note: If you prefer, replace liqueur with orange juice.
Well, we've moved out of the dreary, drab month of January. Snow, snow, and more snow seemed to be the theme! Even though we're far from spring (pretty sure the groundhog saw his shadow and we've got several more weeks of winter on the way), I always like to start using spring-like flavors a little early to make it seem less like winter. BLT Mac & Cheese is a fresh twist on macaroni & cheese, using spring leeks, tomatoes, and of course, BACON! When I first think of BLT's, I'm not instantly excited. Growing up, I didn't like tomatoes, so whenever my mom made BLT's for dinner, I'd have a bacon & cheese sandwich. It's funny that I didn't like tomatoes, because I poured ketchup on everything. Green beans, mac & cheese, shrimp, steak, turkey sandwiches. You name it, ketchup would be good with it. So, I wasn't immediately excited about this recipe when I first saw it. Until I realized there was lots of cheese involved. And it could be made start to finish in less than 30 minutes. Now, there's no lettuce in this recipe, the "L" stands for leek. I had never purchased a leek before trying this recipe. It took awhile to find them in the produce section. It just looks like a giant green onion. This mac & cheese is unique because you actually cook the noodles in the sauce. This eliminates extra dishes, saves time, and makes it really creamy. It's also super simple to make - boil the water, add the pasta along with the cheeses, and seasonings. Add the leeks about halfway through so they get tender, and then stir in the tomatoes and bacon at the end. It was definitely a hit in our house!
BLT Mac & CheeseServings/Yield: 6 servings
- 5 cups water
- 1 lb. bacon, diced
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 16 oz. uncooked pasta, (penne or cavatappi)
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 large leek, diced
- 3 plum tomatoes, diced
READING THE TEA LEAVES
Tea comes from an evergreen shrub native to East and South Asia (Herbal teas are made from other plants and are not true tea.) Tea has been consumed for thousands of years in Asia, where it is an important part of the cultures and has long been associated with health benefits. In China and Japan, in particular, its preparation and presentation have been taken to the level of an art form.
Green Tea, popular in Asia, is minimally processed. The leaves are steamed, rolled and dried. Black tea is withered, rolled or crushed. And then “fermented” (in this case meaning oxidized or exposed to oxygen) before being dried, which makes it black and stronger in taste. Oolong tea is partly fermented. White tea is harvested in early spring; the leaves and silvery white buds are just steamed and dried.
Unless it has been decaffeinated, tea averages about 40 milligrams of caffeine per 6-ounce cup versus 100 milligrams in coffee, on average, depending on the type, brewing time and other factors. Black tea tends to have more caffeine than green.
Tea’s effects on the body are still not fully understood, but don’t expect it to prevent heart disease, cancer or any condition on its own. Moreover, it is just one source of flavonoids and other polyphenols …. Fruits, vegetables, wine, coffee and cocoa are others.
Nevertheless, tea can be a healthy addition to your diet, especially if it takes the place of high calorie beverages. All types of tea have something to offer, including small amounts of minerals such as potassium. Without added sugar, tea has negligible calories. Check labels on bottled or instant teas. Skip green tea supplements. It’s not known whether they have any benefits or more importantly, are safe. In any case, they vary widely in composition.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2014.
LATE-DAY CAFFEINE INTAKE AFFECTS SLEEP
Consuming caffeine within three to six hours before bedtime can significantly disrupt sleep, according to a study published in the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Researchers found that giving the participants 400 milligrams of caffeine (equivalent to about two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee) between three and six hours prior to bedtime reduced the time they slept by an hour or more. These results suggest that beverages containing caffeine should be avoided during late afternoon and evening hours in order to allow healthy sleep. Insufficient sleep has been linked with numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and depression.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, February 2014.
HEALTHIEST PRODUCE PARTS
In general, produce with edible skin such as apples, eggplant, kiwi fruit and pears offer healthful nutrients that concentrate in or just below the skin, such as antioxidants and insoluble fiber. So leaving the skin intact is usually the best way to preserve the full amount of fiber and vitamins. But the skin can also harbor bacteria and pesticides, so it’s important to scrub under running water before eating. When grown conventionally, apples, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, peaches, pears and tomatoes tend to harbor the highest pesticide residue.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, February 2014.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
After the holidays simple desserts are my choice and bread pudding is an example. I like this particular recipe because it is custardy. Adults might like an ounce or two of Kahlúa or butterscotch liqueur poured on top.
• 2 cups dry bread cubes (a good way to use stale bread)
• 4 cups milk, scalded
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Soak bread in milk 5 minutes. Add butter, salt and sugar. Pour slowly over eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour into 2-quart round baking dish. Set in a pan of hot water. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven until firm, about 45 to 50 minutes. Note: You can add 1/2 cup raisins before baking. Recipe makes 6 to 8 servings.
Source: Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens recipe.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY AND YEAR!
We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors. But they all have to live in the same box.
Source: Annie Watts Cloncs, Roachdale IN, 2013 Christmas letter.