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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Veggie Tales

As promised, today's blog will contain two more favorite vegetable recipes as I think most of us need help in this area. Confession: I, too, find it hard to get all the servings of fruits and vegetables in every day. One thing that helps is to have an open mind and try new things, even if you think you won't like them or you've never had that vegetable.
Here's a recipe for one of my favorite vegetables that most people avoid - cabbage. This really gives it a different flavor twist and my kids like it best prepared this way. Bonus: cabbage is cheap!

Braised Cabbage
1 head of cabbage
1/4 cup butter

Pull off any brown or wilted outer leaves and cut cabbage into six wedges, removing the core as you go. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook wedges until brown on one side then carefully turn. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until brown on other side and tender when pierced with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This time of year, roasted vegetables seem to taste better and the meat can cook at the same time. Try different veggies in this recipe such as a sweet potato.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese
2 medium russet or other potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. each basil and oregano
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of your favorite grated cheese
Place potatoes and carrots in a greased 13 by 9 inch pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings. Toss to coat well. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and add remaining ingredients; stir well. Continue baking 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Update! The fair proved disappointing this year. Not only was it raining but the kettle corn people weren't there and there were no Little Orbits. I did have a bite of a deep fried Snickers and thought it was a violation of my favorite candy bar. I had to settle for a roasted ear of corn until I got home to eat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Calcium Scores, A Simple Screening Test for Heart Disease

Today we will have a brief interview with cardiologist Dr. Barry Tedder about calcium scores. Heart disease is the number one cause of death with 1,655,767 deaths in the United States since Jan. 1, 2008. A calcium score is a screening test for heart disease much like the ones for cancer. Many people will die with their first heart attack but have no warning signs.

What exactly is a calcium score? A calcium score is a CT scan that measures the amount of calcium in the heart arteries. It is a useful screening test to help doctors determine if a person has any coronary disease or blockage. This test can predict a patient's future risk of having a heart attack. Heart blockage consists of hard (calcium) and soft plaque build up.

Who should have a calcium score? Anyone who already has at least 2 other risk factors for heart disease which are: high blood pressure, smoking, family history, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Based on SHAPE guidelines, any man over 45 and women over 55 should have a calcium score. Shape stands for the National Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education Program.

What is the purpose of this test? Calcium scores are a useful tool to determine whether your doctor should prescribe medication for prevention of future heart disease or perform other tests.

What is a normal score? Abnormal? A normal score is O, which means the patient has a low risk of having a heart attack in the next 5 years. A score over 400 means the patient has a substantial risk for having a heart attack in the next five years. A stress test is recommended for scores over 400.

What does this test involve? This is a simple test which only takes a few minutes. The patient lays on a CT scan table, wearing clothes and no medication is necessary.

What is the cost? Depending on where you live, it can cost from $75 to $200 and is not covered by insurance at this time. In Texas, insurance does cover the cost due to recent legislation.

How can I schedule one? You can call your local cardiologist's office or speak to your family physician.

For more information, you can go to the This website is pretty technical but they also have video information that is easier to understand on Please discuss any concerns you have with your family physician as they will be happy to refer you to a cardiologist if your symptoms warrant further investigation. Please don't ignore your heart health!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Fall is here and fairs are cropping up everywhere. Since fairs are known to be well stocked with horrible junk food, beware. Make a plan before going and stick to it at the fair or just don't go at all. Eat a healthy meal before going and avoid eating "dinner" at the fair and pick just one treat. If you must eat at the fair, get a small, plain hamburger and an ear of roasted corn.
Confession: I love kettle corn and since I have to take a pack of 6th graders, I'm hoping the Little Orbits people won't be there. Little Orbits are tiny donuts made right before your eyes with your choice of topping. It's fun to watch the dough squirt out into the fat, float along, flip over and be skimmed out. It's even better to eat them, warm and fresh. Yes, we all have weaknesses. I'll choose donuts over the kettle corn and share the bag with a friend.
Here's hoping you have a good time at the fair and you miss the heartburn!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life is too short to eat bad food!

Life is too short to eat bad food. That is my motto and it should be your's too. That is why when we travel, we search out some place decent to eat. Fast food is last on the list. That is why we make food choices very carefully. Why waste calories on something substandard when you can have something much better? Why would you grab those chicken strips and tater logs from the gas station when you can make a better choice with a little effort? It takes a little thinking to break bad habits but isn't your health worth it?
Speaking of health, my next post will talk about calcium scores. What is it and who needs it? If you have concerns about your heart health, be sure to read my post on Thursday.
Today is the first day of fall and I am waiting to see if it will be warm enough to swim and whether the rain will hold off. It is time to start thinking about an alternative exercise plan now that the weather will be getting cooler. I plan to add long walks to my routine so I can enjoy the fresh air. I hope you will take advantage of this free exercise too. Just make sure you wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
I tried a new recipe last night and it was a hit. Quick and delicious. I found it in last week's newspaper.

Rosemary Baked Chicken with Potatoes
6 chicken thighs, skin removed, preferably boneless
1 1/2 lbs. small potatoes, do not peel
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp. garlic powder
Heat oven to 425. Mix oil and seasonings in a large bowl. Wash and halve potatoes.
Add chicken and potatoes to oil mixture and toss to coat well. Add potatoes to a 15 x 10 baking dish sprayed with no stick cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes. Push potatoes to one side and add chicken. Return to oven and bake for at least 30 to 35 minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through.
Nutrition information per serving: 264 calories, 12 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 64 mg. of cholesterol, 334 mg. of salt and 3 grams of fiber.
You could use chicken breasts and reduce the fat content.
Happy First Day of Fall!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Veggie Tales

If you have children of the right age, I'm sure you've heard of Veggie Tales, the cartoons with a moral twist. My veggie tales are a little different but hopefully, you and your kids will appreciate them.
Of course you know you should eat your vegetables; Mom always said so. She was right. So many important nutrients and our friend, fiber, are found in vegetables. Eating vegetables helps control weight and fights many diseases like cancer. I'm always amazed when I'm checking out and the checker has to ask me, "What is this?", holding up a turnip or squash. Sometimes I serve vegetable meals because they are fast and I love them so.
The problem with vegetables is that they are seldom well prepared so no wonder no one likes them. Take the time to try different recipes to find ones you really like. I have even been known to serve raw vegetables for snacks and dinner. What could be easier? Add a few raw carrots or grape tomatoes to your plate. You don't even have to have ranch dip.
Here are a few of my favorite, easy vegetable recipes.

Carrots Moore
1 lb carrots peeled and sliced thin (I use baby carrots because they are already peeled)
1 small onion, chopped
4 TBsp. butter
Place carrots and onion in an oven proof dish. Add 1/2 TBsp. parsley, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. thyme and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Stir to mix well. Dot with butter. Bake at 375 for one hour or until carrots are tender.

Asparagus with Feta Cheese
1 package fresh asparagus
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper
Boil asparagus till just tender. Drain well. Sprinkle with feta and pepper.

Yellow Squash
Slice several small yellow squash and place in a microwavable bowl. Add 1 TBsp. water and microwave 3 to 5 minutes until just tender. Drain well. Add 1 TBsp. Brummel and Brown yogurt spread or your favorite butter substitute, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste.

I will post more vegetable recipes later but do look for others. Vegetables can be a fast and tasty addition to your meals.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two For One

Don't we all love two for one sales? Your life will be easier if you learn to love two for one meals. I've already talked about eating leftovers to save time in the kitchen and money when food isn't wasted. Now let's talk about planning extra meat and using it in another recipe.
This weekend we smoked a large chicken for Sunday dinner. (You could just as easily bake or grill one or even your favorite chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken.) We enjoyed our Sunday dinner with potato salad and purple hull peas. Monday was very busy with swim practice, band, and a 7 p.m. meeting. So I pulled out the leftover chicken that I had already removed from the bone on Sunday and made a quick barbeque sauce for sandwiches and added some baked fries for a quick side. Of course, I had already planned and shopped for these meals because I knew Monday would be hectic. A little planning made my life easier and we ate a healthier meal too.
The leftover chicken could just as easily be made into tasty chicken tacos, chicken salad, the pasta dish I mentioned earlier or another kind of chicken sandwich. It doesn't take long to make any of these dishes and they taste good! Best of all, nearly anyone could prepare these meals.

Here is my recipe for the barbeque chicken sandwich but in a pinch, just use bottled sauce.

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 minced clove of garlic
3/4 cup of ketchup
2 TBsp. brown sugar
2 TBsp. cidar vinegar
1 TBsp. Worchestershire
1 tsp. chili powder
pepper to taste
3 cups chicken, shredded or cut in bite sized pieces
Saute onion, celery and garlic in 1 TBsp. olive or canola oil till lightly browned. Add other ingredients through chicken and simmer 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite side.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Convenience Foods Worth Mentioning

From time to time, I will mention convenience foods I use because of their nutritional value, cost and ease of use. I have two new products to recommend this week. I recently picked up two bags of Contessa Sesame Chicken at $8.59 each to try and was very pleased. Dinner was ready in about 15 minutes - great for those hurried nights and everyone agreed it was good. The meal is complete with rice and several vegetables in addition to the chicken. Best of all, there are 260 calories in a 1 1/2 cup serving, 4 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein. My only criticism is that is has almost 1/3 of your daily requirement of sodium but you could cut back on the sauce and reduce the sodium. One bag is enough for two. I thought the cost was comparable to taking the four of us to a fast food restaurant but a much more healthy choice.

My sister is lactose intolerant so when I read about an ice cream made with coconut milk, my ears pricked up. Turtle Mountain offers Purely Decadent, a non-dairy frozen dessert that is also soy free. It is made with coconut milk and while not fat free by any means, it does have 6 grams of fiber and 10% of your daily requirement of iron. Regular ice cream has neither fiber nor iron. I bought some to test and my family agreed it was very good. Similar to ice cream in consistency and taste, it does have a coconut aftertaste. Give it a try if you are lactose intolerant and missing your ice cream.

Yes, I did just recommend a fat filled treat. As long as we exercise and eat right most of the time, treats are fine.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fast Dinners Good Dinners

The last hurrah of summer is over and the grind is on till Thanksgiving break. There will be many hurried meals as we rush to the next meeting, practice or rehearsal. Don't be tempted to go through the drive-thru on those nights, be prepared for them. Refer back to earlier posts on grocery shopping and restock your pantry now.
To give you some help, my next several posts will have some of my favorite fast dinner recipes that rank high in nutrition and are definite crowd pleasers. Keep frozen grilled chicken breast strips or pieces on hand. You can grill and freeze your own or purchase 20 oz. bags at the grocery. These are a great start for any fast dinner, including the following original recipe I created out of need.

Pantry Pasta

8 ounces of your favorite pasta shape
1 to 2 cups grilled chicken, no need to thaw if frozen
1 can black or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, or one large fresh tomato diced
1/2 medium onion sliced thin
1 can whole corn drained, or 1 cup frozen
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Boil pasta. While pasta cooks, saute onion in 1 tbsp. olive oil till lightly brown. Add chicken, beans, tomatoes and corn. Let heat through but do not boil while draining pasta. Add pasta to meat mixture. Season to taste with salt, pepper and chili powder, if desired. Sprinkle cheese on top and stir to mix well. Done!

This recipe is easily expanded for a larger crowd. It serves 4 as made above. Experiment with different seasonings. If you have a well stocked pantry and keep frozen grilled chicken on hand, this can be made at a moments notice. As usual, add a fruit or green salad and maybe some bread.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day

Labor Day weekend is here but that shouldn't mean laboring in the kitchen. It shouldn't mean eating hot dogs, chips and dip and cheap store bought cookies all weekend either.
I tried a new recipe last weekend that gets high ratings in simplicity, speed of preparation and taste. Even my children gave it a 6 to 8 out of 10. Did I mention healthy? The leftovers were also good for lunch the next day. Give this a try this weekend.

Tuna and White Bean Salad
2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped orange or yellow sweet pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 TBSP. white wine vinegar
2 TBSP. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 6 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steak
salad greens, your favorite

Combine beans, tomatoes, onion, sweet pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a screw top jar. Shake well. Pour over bean mixture and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Thaw frozen tuna. Rinse and pat tuna dry. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes, turning once. Do not over cook. Tuna tastes best when still pink in the middle. Break into pieces and add to bean mixture. Toss gently to combine. Serve over salad greens. Add some hearty bread and your meal is complete.

My family is hiking this weekend. A little time spent outdoors in the fresh air will revive everyone. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alarming Trends

When my husband first started practicing cardiology here in Jonesboro 17 years ago, his patients were mostly in their 60's, 70's and 80's. Exactly the patient population cardiologists expected to see. But over those 17 years two alarming trends have occurred, one I know you read about (or maybe ignore?) and see on TV.

First, the age of his patients has gone steadily down. It has not been unusual lately for him to treat patients with their first heart attacks who are younger than he is - in their 40's, 30's and even 20's! No, these patients don't have some unusual problem. They smoke, don't exercise and are over weight. It's sad to think that middle age for a growing segment of America's population could mean 14 or 20. Think about it - if you have your first heart attack at 28, your life will be cut severely short unless you take steps to correct the problems.

Another alarming trend is that weight gain has gone steadily up. Make no mistake, these trends are closely related. Weight gain, especially around the waist, leads to heart disease as well as other diseases like diabetes. My husband sees patients every day who are overweight by 50 to 100 pounds or more.

We can talk about health care reform all we want but your good health is largely in your own hands. Please take your health and that of your children seriously. Don't wait until you have serious health problems. Start eating better today and get off the couch and get moving! Ditch the cigarettes and do something else with that money. You'll be glad you did.