Mary’s Memo – April 11th

A CONVERSATION WITH BETTY CROCKER


You’ve been encouraged before to call food company tollfree numbers. Cleaning out a kitchen cupboard, I had several boxes of cake mix and not knowing which ones to keep I called the Betty Crocker toll-free number. Of the 4 boxes I had only one was still usable. But that wasn’t all that I learned from talking to a General Mills spokesperson. She advised me to check the expiration date on the package because they will not be the same and pick the box with the latest expiration date.

NO ASSOCIATION BETWEEN CAFFEINE AND EXTRA HEART BEATS


An accompanying editorial by cardiologists from the Atlanta VA Medical Center and Emory University focused on coffee, the major source of caffeine in the US Diet: Recently published studies, including prospective cohorts, clinical investigations and meta-analysis, generally show coffee consumption is safe for the heart. Concerning cardiovascular risk factors, there is little evidence that chronic coffee intake raises blood pressure. “Boiled coffee brewing (e.g. French press) may raise atherogenic lipid levels and other brewing method do not appear to have this effect,” Peter W.F. Wilson, and Heather L. Bloom, MD, continued. “Finally, there is little risk for atrial or ventricular arrhythmia at most of the levels of caffeine consumption in our society.” Dr. Marcus noted that some evidence even suggests caffeine might be associated with lower risk of atrial fibrillation. None of this means you should start consuming caffeine if you don’t already or that you shouldn’t avoid it if it makes you jittery or keeps you from sleeping. But if a little caffeine from coffee or tea helps you get going in the morning or picks you up in mid-afternoon or you just plain enjoy the flavor, you can go ahead without worrying it will make your heart skip a beat. Source: Tufts Diet & Nutrition News Letter, April 2016.

EIGHT POWER FOODS FOR THE BRAIN


People who followed the MIND diet only some of the time still had a 35% lower risk of disease. Chances are, you purposely ate something today that you knew was heart healthy, but you probably didn’t give thought to feeding your brain. Only recently have researchers begun to study the link between diet and cognitive function, and the findings are promising. “You can’t control your genes, which are mostly responsible for any decline in brain function as we age, but with diet, there’s the potential to do something.” says Lon S Schneider, M.D. a professor of psychiatry, neurology and gerontology at the University of Southern California. But it takes more than eating familiar “brain” foods such as fish and blueberries once in a while. ”It is what we eat as a whole, says Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at the Rush Medical Center. Research by Morris and her colleagues shows that following a diet that includes the right foods in the right combination can take years off your brain. The MIND diet is a hybrid of the heart-healthy Mediterranean-DASH diets. (MIND stands for Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.) It limits red meat, butter and stick margarine, pastries and sweets, fried fast food and cheese. The Rush team studied the diets of almost 1,000 elderly adults, who were followed for an average of 4 1/2 years. People whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7 1/2 years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style. A follow up study showed that they also cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half, People who followed the plan only some of the time still had a 35 percent lower risk. Working these foods into your diet can help keep your mind sharp and your entire body healthy. Source: Consumer Reports on Health, April 2016.

RECIPE DEVELOPMENT


My brother-in-law, Sam Trentadue, calls what I do to a recipe as “Maryanizing” it. That would be the case with Betty Crocker’s Smothered Chicken Casserole. Instead of regular angel hair pasta, I used Our Family Whole Wheat. I replaced regular Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup with their Healthy Request kind and opted for a can of evaporated milk when the original recipe called for half and half. It proved to be a good idea as pasta needed the extra moisture. I also skipped 3 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon and garnished with chopped parsley.

SMOTHERED CHICKEN CASSEROLE


• 1 TB olive oil
• 4 boneless, skinless thighs
• 1/2 tsp McCormick Garlic Salt from California
• 1/4 tsp pepper
• 6 oz Our Family Whole Wheat angel hair pasta
• 1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Chicken
• 1 can evaporated milk
• 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
• 2 cups Green Giant Steamers frozen broccoli florets, cut in smaller pieces

Heat oven to 3500F. Spray a 2½ quart casserole with cooking spray. In 10-inch skillet , heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken thighs, sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper. Cook chicken 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and juice of chicken runs clear. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In large bowl, mix soup, evaporated milk and paprika; reserve ¾ cup sauce mixture. Stir in cooked pasta and frozen broccoli. Spoon pasta mixture into casserole; top with thighs. Spoon reserved sauce over chicken thighs. Cover and bake 20 minutes; uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce bubbles. Before serving, garnish with chopped parsley.

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Mary’s Memo – April 4th

TO PEEL OR NOT TO PEEL


The skins of fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients. However, peeling off skin does not necessarily mean you are missing out on valuable nutrients, it depends on the food. For example, the red color in tomatoes and red peppers and the orange color in oranges are phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, which helps protect you from cell damage that may lead to cancers. These pigments and antioxidants are available throughout the fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, peeling other produce, like apples and potatoes, does result in some nutrient loss. For instance, the amount of vitamin C in unpeeled and peeled apples is similar, about 8 milligrams (mg) in apples with skin and 6 mg in apples without the skin. However, about 50 percent of the apple’s fiber is lost. When you peel a potato, you are losing fiber as well as potassium, folate, vitamin C and other important vitamins and minerals. When consuming fruits and vegetables, wash them thoroughly and eat the skins for maximum fiber and antioxidant benefits. Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, April 2016.

EAT MORE RASPBERRIES!


Raspberries have a number of heart and brain-health protective essential nutrients, according to a review of scientific literature published in the January 2016 issue of Advances in Nutrition. Components in raspberries contain anthocyanins, which are known to suppress inflammation, while their high polyphenol content may also help prevent platelet buildup and reduce blood pressure. Raspberries have “potential to help reduce factors contributing to metabolic syndrome, which has implications for diabetes development and overall cardiovascular and brain health,” says lead author Britt M. Burton-Freeman, PhD, MS, Institute for Food Safety & Health, Illinois Institute of Technology. Source: Duke Medicine, April 2016.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?


Regarding Folic Acid and Folate, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that most adults consume 400 micro milligrams (mcg) of folic acid per day, a vitamin you’ll find in dark leafy greens, fruit, beans and eggs. But don’t get more than 1000 mcg of folic acid per day, a form of folate used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. Too much can mask vitamin B 12 deficiency, most likely to be seen among people over 50 and older and vegetarians. “Untreated, that can lead to nerve damage, cognitive trouble and even psychiatric problems,” says Consumer Reports ”medical director, Orly Avtzur, MD. Research suggests that daily folic acid supplements of 300 to 800 mcg per day was associated with cognitive decline. Many manufacturers add folic acid to such products as enriched bread, cereal, flour, pasta and rice.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, April 2016.

ANYTHING LEMON SOUNDS GOOD FOR SPRING!


Betty Crocker’s Luscious Lemon Squares are perfect for a neighborhood coffee or for dessert. Be sure you use fresh lemon juice, not bottled. There’s a lot of difference in flavor!

LUSCIOUS LEMON SQUARES


• 1 cup Gold Medal all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons fresh grated lemon peel (zest)
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 3500F. Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar. Press in ungreased 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches, building up 1/2 inch edges. Bake crust 20 minutes. Beat granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center. Cool; dust with powdered sugar. Cut into ½ inch squares.
Source: Betty Crocker recipe.

BEST LEMON CURD RECIPE EVER!


Chief Supermarkets carry a quality lemon curd and so does Williams Sonoma but neither compare to one shared by a Bryan lady originally from Wales. Of all the cookies we make at Christmas. Lemon Curd Tarts are the first ones eaten. I make homemade pie crust shells in miniature muffin pans but this year daughter Mary Ann used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts for her homemade curd.

LEMON CURD (An English Recipe)


• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1 1/4 cups strained fresh lemon juice
• 4 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Melt butter in top of a stainless steel double boiler over simmering water. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until thick and smooth, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool, then store in the refrigerator. To serve, fill miniature tart shells, Curd is also good on English muffins.

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Mary’s Memo – March 28th

REDUCE YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE


Eat a heart-healthy diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains rather than refined grains and lean protein from seafood, skinless poultry and plant foods including beans, nuts and seeds. Limit foods high in saturated fat (full-fat dairy products, red and processed meats) and processed foods that contain a lot of sugar and/or sodium. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least 5 days a week; if 30 minutes at once is too much, break it down into 10 minute increments. At your annual exam, ask what your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose numbers are; if any are outside the normal range, ask what you can do to get them under control.
Source: Weil Cornell Women’s Health Advisor, March 2016.

COFFEE LINKED WITH BETTER LIVER HEALTH


Prior research has indicated that drinking coffee may reduce the incidence of liver disease, and a recent study (Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, January 25, 2016) suggests that a protective effect is more significant than previously believed. Researchers who studied data on nearly half a million men and women found that drinking two extra cups of coffee per day is linked with a 44 percent lower risk of developing liver cirrhosis and a nearly 50 percent lower risk of death from the disease. Cirrhosis of the liver is typically caused by excessive alcohol consumption or viruses such as hepatitis C. An estimated 633,000 Americans are thought to have liver cirrhosis and 69 percent of them are unaware of their condition. Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, April 2016.

RECIPE TESTING


It amazes me that so many internet recipe directions need additional clarification. I found that to be the case with www.mydailymoment.com’s Creole Pork Casserole. Hopefully, my adapted recipe does the trick. That said, it’s a tasty entrée for a family and economical to make.

CREOLE PORK CHOP CASSEROLE


• 3 medium size russet potatoes, thinly sliced
• 1 pound package Birdseye frozen green beans
• 2 medium size sweet onions, thinly sliced
• 6 1/2-inch thick pork chops
• 1 green bell pepper cut into thin slices
• 1 clove minced garlic
• 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
• Salt and pepper to taste between layers

Spray bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick coating. Evenly arrange potato slices in baking dish and season with a little salt to taste. Spread unthawed green beans over potatoes. Spread half the onions over vegetables and sprinkle with pepper to taste. Spread the pork chops over onions and cover with remaining onions, green bell pepper, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf parsley and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly with heavy duty foil and bake in preheated 3750F oven for 1½ hours or until chops are tender. Remove bay leaf. Recipe makes 6 servings.
Source: Recipe adapted from My Daily Moment internet site.

TIPS AND TRICKS


In my continuing effort to keep from throwing things away before the expiration date, the Pioneer Woman on the Food Network, Ree Drummond, suggested moving these cans to the front of the shelf where you are more apt to use them. If you’ve noticed, the Chief produce department stands the stems of fresh asparagus in water. I do the same at home by removing the rubber bands and standing it in a wide mouthed 16-ounce mug, uncovered, in the refrigerator where it keeps much longer than it would in the fruit and vegetable bin.

When a recipe calls for shredded Cheddar cheese, my preference is always reduced fat sharp Cheddar because it lends more flavor than milder cheese.

Last week we shared a recipe for Rice Krispies eaten from a mug. This week it’s Western Omelet in a Mug that serves 1.

WESTERN OMELET IN A MUG


• 2 large eggs
• 1 TB milk
• 1 TB chopped onion
• 2 TB chopped bell pepper
• 2 slices deli ham, chopped
• 1 TB reduced fat shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste

Coat the inside of 16-ounce mug with cooking spray. Crack eggs into the mug and whisk until completely combined. Whisk in milk, onion, bell pepper, ham and season with salt and pepper to taste. Microwave on high for 1minute. Stir the eggs, top with cheese and cook another 30 to 60 seconds on high until eggs are completely set. Remove from the microwave and serve immediately. Cook time will vary slightly from microwave to microwave. Recipe makes 1 serving.
Source: Adapted from The Kitchn, an internet site.

DID YOU KNOW?


The word “dinner” comes from Old French disner, which means breakfast.

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Mary’s Memo – March 21st

FROM THE COOKBOOK SHELF


Mary Pietrantonio Cooney is a first generation Italian-American who lives in Kettering, Ohio. She is the author of Mary’s Kitchen, available at Dorothy Lane Market Culinary Center where the author teaches and shares her passion for Italian cooking and baking. She also believes that dining together as a family is good bonding time and I heartily agree! Pietrantonio Cooney’s Bow Tie Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Spinach is a good Lenten choice for those of us who abstain from meat on Friday.

BOW TIE PASTA WITH SUN DRIED TOMATOES & SPINACH


• 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 extra large onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced
• 3.5-ounces sun dried tomatoes, julienne cut
• 10 ounces fresh baby spinach
• 1 cup heavy cream
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pound bow tie pasta
• 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
• Freshly grated parmesan cheese

While water is heating, pour olive oil in a 12-inch pan and place over high heat. Once oil is hot, add onions and cook until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add mushrooms and continue to stir fry over high heat until mushrooms are golden. Add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes and spinach and stir for a couple minutes until spinach starts to wilt. Pour in cream and allow cream to bubble. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook pasta according to package for “al dente” in salted boiling water. Once pasta is finished cooking, drain the water and pour into a serving dish with the cooked vegetables. Mix all together until incorporated. Garnish with pine nuts and pour into serving dish with cooked vegetables and parmesan cheese. Serves 8. Source: Mary’s Kitchen by Mary Pietrantonio Cooney. Purchase by calling Dorothy Lane at 866-748-1391 or order from Amazon.com.

WHAT’S NEW IN THE GADGET WORLD


It’s been around for a few years but I didn’t have it until daughter Mary Ann included one in my Christmas stocking in 2015. Called Spread That, it’s made from heat conducting technology that transfers body heat to easily carve and spread cold butter. Spread That is dishwasher safe (let it cool off in dishwasher for at least 20 minutes, after dishwasher cycle is completed). It’s made with titanium coated copper alloy and silicone. It does not replace a knife because it has no sharp edges.

New on the market is the Chef’n Hullster, available at Williams Sonoma, that easily removes core of tomato. Push a button to extend a stainless steel claw, insert it around core, release button and twist to remove core. Serrated blades remove core cleanly. Hullster is top-of-the-rack dishwasher safe. Order from Amazon.com or Williams Sonoma at 1-800-541-2233.

BORED WITH YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE?


Yoga can help boost bone strength and improve balance and flexibility. Yoga is an option for most people, because a routine can be specifically matched to your age, fitness level and overall health. And if you’re not especially active now, recovering from surgery or coping with an illness, you can start a yoga program, says orthopedic specialist Cara Ann Senicola, PT, DPT, with Weill Cornell-affiliated Hospital for Special surgery. ”Research shows that sedentary people who practice yoga have increased static (still) balance as well as dynamic (movement) balance,” she explains. “Yoga also increases flexibility, and it can be the perfect adjunct to rehabilitating and orthopedic injury.” Studies also have found that people with depression see improvements in their condition after participation in yoga classes, Senicola adds.

ANOTHER OF MY FAVORITE THINGS


Anything with the taste of the famous Buffalo Wings is a winner with me. Spicy Hot Chicken Legs are delicious, so good that I originally planned to reserve the recipe for the annual Christmas sheet. However, because drumsticks are frequently on sale at Chief and I encourage you to plan your meals around sale priced items, we’re sharing the recipe sooner!

SPICY HOT CHICKEN LEGS (A SLOW COOKER RECIPE)


• 12 chicken drumsticks
• 1 5-ounce bottle Frank’s Hot Red Pepper Sauce
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cubed
• McCormick California Garlic Powder
• 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 1/2 cups blue cheese dressing (I use Marzetti brand in the produce department)

Arrange drumsticks, single layered, in 5 to 6 quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with pieces of butter. Pour hot sauce over chicken, then season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or until tender. For crispier chicken, bake in a 4000F oven for final 30 minutes. Recipe makes 6 servings, 2 drumsticks per person. Serve with blue cheese dressing on the side.
Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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Mary’s Memo – March 14th

FROM THE COOKBOOK SHELF


Carrie Walters, Culinary Director of Dorothy Lane Markets in the Dayton area, recommended A Real Southern Cook in Her Savanna Kitchen by Dora Charles (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015; hardback/$25.00). How could I resist when recipes included ones I love to eat including fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, fresh tomato pie and more! Hundreds of thousands of people have made the trip to enjoy exceptional food cooked by Dora Charles at one of Savannah’s most famous destination restaurants. Now Charles shares her culinary magic in a A Real Southern Cook in Her Savannah Kitchen. Earlier in her career, Charles worked for Paula Dean for 22 years from her original restaurant to Lady and Sons where she taught dozens of staffers and managers. Trust me, this cookbook is a winner if you like foods of the South like I do! Purchase via Amazon.com.

YOU ASKED


Question: What is a Sumo?

Answer: In the 1970’s a Japanese citrus grower from Kumamoto Prefecture, developed a fruit which would combine the easy-to-peel Japanese Satsuma with an obscure tangerine-orange hybrid. Although he saw promise in his fruit, it proved challenging to grow. It took over 30 years but his hard work paid off when it became the prized citrus fruit in Japan and Korea. Now this legendary fruit with its pebbled skin and “knob top” exceptionally sweet fruit is grown in California’s Central Valley to the same exacting standards of the original Kumamoto farmer.

WHAT’S NEW AT CHIEF


Kudos to Pepperidge Farm for their Goldish Baked Snack Crackers Baked with Real Cheddar Cheese and no MSG like most flavored crackers!

And just in time for St. Patrick’s Day are new Oreo Thins Mint Crème cookies. I also like the way they’re packaged with a convenient easy to open pull tab. Oreo still makes a regular size cookie but calorie-wise, I prefer the thin ones.

ANOTHER ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS


I have never outgrown my love affair with Rice Krispie Treats. They’re available at Chief already made but when children can make them in the microwave with adult supervision, why would anyone buy store-bought! A whole batch for me is way too many. Then along came Microwave Single Serve Rice Krispie Treat via www.food.com to eat right from a large mug or medium bowl.

MICROWAVE SINGLE-SERVE RICE KRISPIE TREAT


• 1 cup Rice Krispies (or Our Family works fine)
• 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
• 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) butter
Directions: Put marshmallows and butter in 16-ounce mug or a medium bowl and microwave for about 20 seconds on HIGH (marshmallows will puff a lot). Take the bowl out of the microwave, and stir in the cereal, making sure it is all coated with marshmallow mixture. Enjoy! Source: Adapted recipe from www.food.com.

DIETITIANS FORECAST HEALTHY-EATING TRENDS


Seeds and avocado’s will steal some of the healthy-eating spotlight from kale in 2016, according to a survey of registered dietitians nutritionists (RDNs). The survey of 450 dietitians was conducted by Pollock Communications and Today Dietitian Magazine. Following the popularity chia seeds, the dietitians forecast that other seeds such as sunflower, hemp, sesame and flax will appeal to health conscious consumers looking for alternatives to carbohydrates. Avocados, versatile and high in healthy unsaturated fats, will continue to grow in popularity, along with green tea and “ancient grains.” Kale, while still a healthy choice, may have peaked in popularity, the survey of RDNs predict along with high-protein products. Also booming in 2016, the RDNs predict, will be the “clean eating” fad, even though there is not a clear definition of ‘clean eating’ and varies by person. “Clean eating typically emphasizes foods making “free from” artificial ingredients, but the dietitians surveyed caution that isn’t the best way to make healthy choices. Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, March 2016.

OTHER FISH IN THE SEA


America’s favorite “fish” is actually a shellfish, shrimp. Shellfish can be a healthy alternative to entrée options higher in calories, and recent revised thinking about dietary cholesterol is good news for shrimp lovers just as it is for egg eaters. Shrimp, scallops, crab, clams and other shellfish are low in fat, however, so they are low in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll find slightly more omega 3s in clams and scallops, whereas crab is similar to Pollock (often used for imitation crab). Choose preparations that let the flavors of shellfish shine, such as boiling, broiling, grilling or lightly sautéing without breading. Source: Tufts Smart Supermarket Seafood Shopping Supplement, March 2016.

AN IRISH BLESSING


“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sunshine warm upon your face. The soft rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again may God hold you in the hallow of his hand.”

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Mary’s Memo – March 7th

QUIET MEALS, HEALTHIER CHOICES


You may want to turn down the volume at dinnertime. Families that ate as a vacuum cleaner roared nearby consumed 34 percent more cookies than those who dined in a more peaceful setting, according to a University of Illinois Study.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, March 2016.

CENTRAL OBESITY POSES RISK FOR THIN PEOPLE


If you’re of normal weight but carry fat around your waistline, you still have increased risk of total and cardiovascular mortality compared to overweight or obese people with normal fat distribution, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine December 1, 2015. Researchers found that normal-weight adults with central obesity have the worst long term survival compared with any group, no matter what their body mass index (BMI). Findings showed that normal-weight people with central obesity had twice the mortality risk of people who are rated overweight or obese according to BMI only, compared to hip-weight ratio.
Source: DukeMedicine Health News, March 2016.

TIPS AND TALK


Produce departments can practically give away regular cucumbers but my choice will always be the English burpless, the one that’s shrink wrapped in plastic. Something else you should know about any cucumber is that is keeps longer on the counter than in the refrigerator. In the case of the English cucumber, plastic should be removed. Consider parsley as more than a garnish. This herb is a good source of vitamin C (a quarter-cup contains one-third the Daily Value) and also provides some potassium, vitamin K, folate and other nutrients, along with potentially beneficial phytochemicals. Curly parsley is often to decorate plates, but flat leaf (or Italian) parsley is generally preferred for cooking since it has a pronounced flavor. Add chopped parsley to soups, salads, sauces, dips and meat and seafood dishes.
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, March 2016.

When I read reviews of recipes on the internet, it amazes me that very few cooks make it like the recipe is printed. My inclination is to follow it unless I see a major problem that needs to be addressed. I also shy away from recipes with over 400 calories but if I like the entrée well enough, I find ways to cut calories by replacing them with a reduced-fat version. Such was the case with Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch-Chicken Pasta. Regarding the pasta, 8 ounces of spaghetti was too much for the amount of sauce so second time around I used only 6 ounces. Instead of regular sour cream, I replaced it with reduced-fat one with half the calories and instead of regular cream of chicken soup my preference was Campbell’s MSG-free Healthy Request. The finished product was moist and reheated beautifully in the microwave.

SLOW-COOKER BACON-RANCH CHICKEN AND PASTA


• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
• 1 clove minced garlic
• 1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix (I use Penzeys without MSG)
• 1 (10.75 oz) can MSG-free Campbell’s Healthy Request cream of chicken soup.
• 1 cup light sour cream
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 cup water
• 6 oz Our Family Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti (half of 12 oz package)
Spray 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; place chicken in cooker. In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients except spaghetti. Pour over top of chicken. Cover; cook on High setting 1 hour. Switch to low and continue cooking an additional 5 hours. When about 15 minutes are left, cook and drain spaghetti as directed on package. Just before serving, shred the chicken with 2 forks, and toss creamy mixture with pasta. Recipe makes 6 servings.
Source: Adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe

IMMUNE DISEASES TRIGGERED BY PROCESSED FOODS


A recent study suggests that eating processed foods may increase risk for autoimmune disease because of weaken intestines. Researchers identified at least seven common food additives that weaken “tight junctions” in the intestines. Tight junctions are sealants between epithelial cells that protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, the mucosa that help food pass through. Normal-functioning tight junctions can lead to “leaky gut,” a condition in which toxins can enter the bloodstream, possibly leading to development of autoimmune diseases. Processed foods include microwave meals, some cheeses, cereals, canned fruits and vegetables, bread, snack foods, bacon and sausages. The seven food additives include glucose, gluten, sodium, fat solvents, organic acids, nanometric particles and microbial transllutaminase, an enzyme used as a food protein “glue.” Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, among many others (Autoimmunity Reviews, June 2015).
Source: DukeMedicine HealthNews, March 2016.

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Mary’s Memo – February 29th

LONGEVITY BENEFITS SEEN WITH MODERATE COFFEE DRINKING


That extra cup of coffee is not only safe for most people, but might actually reduce your risk of dying prematurely from heart disease and several causes. Harvard researchers reported in the journal Circulation an association between drinking three to five cups of coffee a day and lower mortality risk. The association was seen for cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, type 2diabetes and even suicide, but not cancer. Drinkers of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee saw benefits. Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts Antioxidants Research Laboratory, says “The overlap in this association between regular and decaffeinated coffee suggests that other bioactive components than caffeine may contribute importantly to some of these apparent benefits. Brewing whole or ground coffee beans effectively extracts chlorogenic acids, ligans, quinides and trigonelline, phytochemicals shown in other research studies to increase antioxidant defenses and reduce both insulin resistance and systematic inflammation.”

Drinking up to three cups of coffee a day was associated with a 6 to 8% lower risk of overall mortality; consumption of more than five cups a day was not associated with risk of mortality one way or the other. Among people who had never smoked, the protective association of coffee was more evident. For never smokers, drinking three to five cups was linked to lower risk. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, whose recommendations help inform the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for the first time addressed safety concerns about coffee. The committee concluded that drinking three to five cups a day (up to about 400 milligram of caffeine) was associated with minimal health risks and may confer benefits. Pregnant women should stop at two cups a day. Some research also suggested that genetic variations in how quickly people process caffeine may affect health benefits. The caffeine content of a cup of coffee varies depending on how its brewed, with a typical eight-ounce cup in the US containing 85 milligrams. Coffee shop drinks can range from 75 to 165 milligrams per eight-ounce cup, but keep in mind that servings are usually twice that. Even decaffeinated coffee contains about 2 to 15 milligrams per cup.
Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, February 2016.

KITCHEN HOUSEKEEPING


Regarding cleaning out the refrigerator/freezer and kitchen cupboards, how often have I resolved to not have it happen again? Sorry to say, too many times! I do have a large refrigerator/freezer and although I clean it regularly and store food in the freezer in an orderly fashion, when I’m in a hurry I have a tendency to shove foods anyplace they’ll fit!

So what do I intend to do about it? The first thing is take inventory of what’s in the refrigerator/freezer and cupboard before making a shopping list to avoid duplicating something I already have on hand. At the supermarket sticking to the list and avoiding any impulse purchases is essential, no matter whether it’s a bargain or not! Although cooking for two wasn’t a problem when I was first married, it’s a real problem now! I miss foods that I fixed when we were a family of six because it isn’t practical to make them for one person. A solution is to invite a few friends to join me for the entrée and fellowship that comes with sharing. Hopefully this information helps if you’re in the same situation

INSPIRED BY CHINESE NEW YEAR


One of my favorite soups is Egg Drop. This week’s recipe is so easy to make and it uses ingredients I usually have on hand. In the past I’ve garnished the soup with chopped scallions but in this recipe from the internet, everything is in the soup. Note: Swanson Chicken Stockwill make it even more flavorful.

QUICK EGG DROP SOUP


• 3 cups chicken broth or stock (I prefer Swanson)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
• 1 medium scallion, chopped (green part included)
• 2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Heat chicken broth or stock, salt and white pepper to boiling. Stir scallion into eggs. Pour egg mixture slowly into broth, stirring constantly with fork or whisk to form shreds of egg. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from my daily moment.com recipe.

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Mary’s Memo – February 22nd

HOW TO AVOID DIETARY PITFALLS WHEN DINING OUT


Brunch with friends, lunch with work colleagues or a romantic dinner date, more of our meals are eaten outside of the home. According to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the percentage of total calories consumed outside the home increased from 18 percent in the 1970’s to 32 percent in 2008, roughly one-third of all food consumed. Researchers also found that spending in restaurants increased from 25.9 percent of the total food budget in 1970 to 43.1 percent in 2012.

Not only are more meals being consumed in restaurants, but those meals usually contain more calories, sodium and fat than you bargained for. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that meals eaten in full service restaurants and fast-food outlets are surprisingly similar. Whether the meal was from a drive-thru or served by a waiter, on average, meals eaten out contained 200 more calories, 350 milligrams more sodium and 10 grams more fat than home-cooked meals. In addition, the researchers discovered that people consumed less vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin D when eating out. “Fast food is usually considered as the most unhealthy, but the fare in sit-down restaurants may not be much better. Restaurants add butter, cheese, sauces and salt to insure the food tastes so good that customers will return time and time again, says Tanya Freirish, RD, a dietitian at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornel.

Dining out can be fun, fast and easy, but it doesn’t have to exclude healthy choices. Here are some strategies to help you stay on target with your healthy eating plan, even if you’re dining out: Look for words like grilled, broiled, baked and steamed for lower calorie options. If nothing looks healthy, ask for sauces and dressings on the side and/or place half your entrée in a take-home container at the beginning of the meal.
Source: Weill Cornel Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, February 2016.

YOU ASKED


Q: Will cranberry juice prevent urinary tract infections?

A: My “go to” person regarding questions like this is Dinah Dalder, MS, RD, CNSC, CD, Dietetics Program Manager, Department of Nutrition Science, Purdue University. “There is not enough evidence to be able to recommend cranberry juice for preventing urinary tract infections,” according to Dalder.

A FOOD JOURNAL CAN HELP YOU MANAGE A NUMBER OF HEALTH ISSUES


Weight loss is the most common reason for keeping a food journal but it can be helpful for a variety of conditions for which specific foods or nutrients need to be monitored. You can use a food journal to count carbohydrates if you have diabetes, monitor sodium intake if you have high blood pressure, limit your saturated fat intake if you have high cholesterol, or control your intake of sodium, potassium, phosphorus and protein if you have chronic kidney disease, according to Kim Valenza, RD, CDE, CDN, a senior dietitian at New York – Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. According to Valenza, “Keeping a journal makes you more aware of and accountable for what you are eating. A handful of crackers or chips here and there and a candy bar on the run might get forgotten or ‘not counted’ when tallying your daily intake in your head. By writing it down, you have a written account you can review.”
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, February 2016.

SLOW COOKER RECIPES SUIT OUR LIFESTYLE


When both parents work, a slow cooker is one of the handiest appliances in the kitchen. What I like best about this week’s recipe is that only a salad is needed to complete the meal. However, I do recommend that the chunks of russet potatoes be zapped in your microwave on high for 2 minutes before arranging with baby carrots in the bottom of the cooker. I did make a double recipe of the sauce as suggested. Since I don’t use anything with MSG, I used an equivalent amount of Penzeys ranch dressing mix (available by calling 1-800-741-7787).

SLOW COOKER CREAMY RANCH CHICKEN


• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 4 medium russet potatoes, cut into small pieces
• 2 cups baby carrots
• 2 cans Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup
• 2 1/2 teaspoons Penzeys ranch dressing mix
• 1/4 cup milk
• Chopped parsley for garnish

Spray your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Layer potatoes and carrots on the bottom of slow cooker. Lay chicken breasts on top. In medium bowl, whisk together soup, dry ranch dressing and milk. Pour over top of chicken breasts. Cook on high first hour, then on low an additional 4 hours. Serve immediately garnished with fresh chopped parsley. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from The Recipe Critic recipe on the internet.

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Mary’s Memo – February 15th

ABOUT MATCHA


Matcha is a powdered Japanese green tea that is whisked into hot water or milk. This antioxidant-rich green tea may soon show up in coffee houses including Starbucks. It may become the Nespresso of 2016. Sharp recently introduced
an Instant Matcha Maker.

WALNUTS, A SUPER FOOD


Walnuts are considered a superfood, and particularly good for the brain because they contain a wide variety of nutrients that benefit the brain. About 7 walnuts a day is enough to make a difference in your mental functioning. Recent research shows that people who regularly eat walnuts score consistently higher on memory tests, comprehension and information-processing speed than those who eat few or no walnuts. All varieties of nuts contain nutrients, but walnuts contain more brain-healthy antioxidants, vitamin E and folic acid than other nuts, and are the only nut that contains a significant amount of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic (ALA). Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with improved brain plasticity (the brain’s ability to change throughout life), better learning and memory, and lower risk of mental disorders, such as depression and dementia. Other nutritional benefits of walnuts include protein, polyphenols (antioxidants), B6, arginine (an amino acid involved in protein synthesis and cell division), melatonin and minerals such as copper, manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium. Recommended consumption per day is about an ounce-and-a-half a day.
Source: Duke Medicine HealthNews, February 2016.

EAT EVERYTHING IN MODERATION MAY NOT BE THE BEST ADVICE


Eating everything in moderation has long been popular wisdom, though without much scientific evidence to support it. Now a new study has put that dictum to the test. Greater diversity was not associated with better outcomes as measured by waist circumference and risk of type 2 diabetes, and people eating “everything in moderation” were more likely to add inches around the middle. The problem with this traditional advice may be that people apply it equally to healthy and unhealthy foods. Eating a more diverse diet means consuming a greater variety of fruits and vegetables but also sugary sodas, cookies, potato chips and cupcakes. Even “in moderation,” such choices contribute to intake of trans fats, sugar, sodium, starch and refined carbohydrates, outweighing the benefits of healthy foods. “Americans with the healthiest diets actually eat a relatively small range of healthy foods,” says Dariush Mozafarian, MD, DrPH, senior author of the study and dean of Tufts Friedman School, as well as editor-in-chief of the Tufts Diet & Nutrition Letter. “These results suggest that in modern diets, eating ‘everything in moderation’ is actually worse than eating a smaller number of healthy foods.” It still makes sense to eat a “rainbow” of different colored fruits and vegetables, to ensure that you’re getting a full range of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. But don’t worry too much if your choices among the healthy “rainbow” are limited to your tastes and budget. There’s nothing wrong with eating broccoli or blueberries several times a week and skipping Brussels sprouts and kiwi fruit if that’s what you prefer. Finding a few healthy favorites and sticking with them is better than branching out to eat “everything” if that means consuming a ”moderate” amount of donuts, chips, fries and double cheeseburgers.
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, February 2016.

LENT IS HERE


Salmon patties are a good choice and I’m partial to the recipe in my cookbook. If you need fewer than 8 patties, they do freeze well. Although I prefer red sockeye salmon, pink salmon is cheaper and works. Dill weed, one of the seasonings, is also a plus

DILLED SALMON PATTIES


• 2 cups soft bread crumbs (easy to do in a food processor, pulsing on and off)
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 1/2 cup minced scallions including tops
• 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 14 3/4-ounce can red sockeye salmon, drained
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil or Canola oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs with eggs, onion, dill weed, lemon juice and pepper; mix well. Add salmon, breaking fish into small pieces and removing any bones. Shape salmon into 8 patties, each about 1/2-inch thick. In large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add salmon patties and cook until golden on both sides and hot throughout. Serve with cocktail or tartar sauce on the side. Recipe makes 4 2-patty servings.

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Mary’s Memo – February 8th

PIE MAKING 101


Mother made pie crust with Crisco. Daughter Mary Ann uses lard and butter. But in my opinion lard makes the flakiest crust. Salt enhances the flavor and use 1 teaspoon per double crusted pie. When I was a county extension agent in Indiana at a Purdue 4-H Club Roundup, I watched the national cherry pie champion use cold milk instead of ice water in her pie crust and I’ve used it ever since in mine. It gives the crust a more golden color when baked. Finally, I could not get along without a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover and Mother also used one when they became available. I use the set when I make rolled cookie dough and bread. Practice makes perfect when it comes to making pie crust. If you’re still intimidated by the thought of making your own, Pillsbury’s refrigerated crust is the way to go. Having cut many a pie at church dinners, some pie bakers would be better off using one of these!

MY PIE CRUST RECIPE


• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup fresh lard
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1/2 cup chilled milk (whatever kind that you use)

In a food processor or electric mixer with dough hook, Pulse on and off to make coarse crumbs. Add milk gradually until dough clings together in a ball. Divide dough into 4 parts. If not using immediately, form each ball into a round flat disk and store in freezer bag until needed. Recipe makes 2 double crusts.

“FORAGING” IN THE MODERN SUPERMARKET


There’s good news at your local supermarket. “You should walk into a supermarket with a very positive attitude,: says Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory and executive editor of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. “The availability of healthy and affordable foods has greatly expanded in recent years. A smart strategy of “hunting and gathering,” Lichtenstein says, can fill your cart with nutritious, budget friendly items that can be turned into healthy meals with a minimum of fuss. Making a list and sticking to it is the first step in nutrition-wise “foraging.” It insures that you’ll buy only what you really need for meals and helps you reduce waste and avoid impulse purchase. Even canned-goods aisles contain healthy choices, especially if you choose foods like canned beans. They're an excellent choice and a protein alternative to meat, as well as convenient. Tomatoes are another wise canned choice, Lichtenstein notes, “Sometimes canned tomatoes are more flavorful than fresh because they are processed at the peak of ripeness. Canned tomatoes may also include varieties that are more flavorful but that don’t ship well as whole, fresh tomatoes.” The lycopene in canned tomatoes and tomato sauces is more accessible than in fresh, uncooked tomatoes. Reduced-sodium soups have become more widely available, too, improving options in a section of the supermarket that was once a sodium-laden disaster zone.
Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, February 2016.

A SWEET FOR THE SWEET ON VALENTINE’S DAY


For a snack, daughter-in-law Kelly Thaman brought Cracker Toffee to the Thaman Christmas dinner. She got the recipe from one of the ladies with whom she works at school. You’ll need a 13x18-half sheet pan or one close to this size to make the toffee

CRACKER TOFFEE


• 1 1/2 packages saltine crackers (or as many as you can fit into the pan in one layer)
• 1 stick unsalted butter
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
• Chopped pecans, walnuts or any other kind of nut would be good but they are optional

Line pan with parchment paper sprayed with a little Pam. Bring to a boil the butter and sugar and boil for 2 to 3 minutes (browned and bubbly when the sugar is melted). Pour mixture over the crackers (don’t worry if all the crackers are not covered because mixture will spread as it bakes) and bake in preheated 3500F oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully pull out of oven because the liquid at this point will be very hot and will burn you badly if spilled. Let set for 3 to 4 minutes and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Let set for a few minutes until they melt and then spread with a spatula until covered. Sprinkle with nuts if you like. Cool 20 minutes and then store in the refrigerator to harden up. When cooled and hardened, break into pieces.

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