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Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year Videos

I want you to watch these two videos and consider the age of these two women.  The cowgirl is 101 and the salsa dancer is in her 80's.  They are my personal inspiration and illustrate just why I exercise, eat right and take care of myself.  They aren't sitting on the sidelines watching life go by; they are living life to the fullest and out there having fun doing what they love.  

Think about these two ladies as you enter the new year.  Let them be your inspiration to a better, fuller, happier life.  They didn't get there by sitting on their butt getting fat.  They didn't get there by watching their children have all the fun, they joined in.  Don't just make some lame New Year's resolutions tonight.  Really get out and move, have fun, get in the game.  If you don't, you better get on the waiting list down at the nursing home.  Space will be limited.

A Happy Healthy New Year to all!  Do what it takes to get what you want this year.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another Apology Plus a Confession

This Christmas I guess I was more unorganized than usual so I didn't get to post any the week before Christmas as promised.  I apologize for not posting the recipes for the rest of our Christmas dinner.  However, the menu we had for Christmas dinner will be good for a fancy New Year's dinner or anytime you want to impress guests. 

I love cranberries in just about any form you can cook or bake them into.  This salad is simple and can made the day before serving.  Just whip the cream and fold in the rest of the ingredients.  The bread is a family favorite but must be set out to rise at least 2 hours before serving.  I promise if you try the brussel sprouts, you will look at them in a different way.  I love brussel sprouts but this is the best way to prepare them.  My kids will eat them this way without complaining.

Cranberry Salad
1 bag cranberries, washed and chopped
1 cup sugar
2 cups red grapes, sliced in half
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped and toasted pecans
1 carton of heavy cream, whipped
Stir sugar into chopped cranberries.  Add grapes and pineapple, mixing well and let set overnight.  Whip cream and fold nuts and cream into fruit mixture just before serving. 

Pullaway Bread
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp.dried basil
1 25 oz. package frozen roll dough
3 tbsp. butter melted
Lightly grease a Bundt pan with cooking spray.  Stir together first 3 ingredients.  Sprinkle into the greased pan.  Place 1/2 of the frozen rolls into the pan and drizzle with 1/2 the melted butter.  Sprinkle with 1/2 the remaining cheese.  Repeat all 3 layers.  Let rise in a warm place 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, shielding with foil if necessary.  Invert onto a serving platter and serve immediately.

Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries
1 lb. brussel sprouts, rinsed and trimmed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup craisins
Thinly slice brussel sprouts.  Add butter to pan and when melted, add nuts and sprouts.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 6 minutes until just tender.  Salt and pepper and toss in craisins.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

And now for my confession:  I ate way too many cookies over the Christmas holiday.  I fell in love with a new recipe I tried, Chai Kissed Chocodoodles, a type of chocolate snickerdoodle.  I sometimes ate 8 in a sitting.  Plus my husband tried several new cocktails all full of cream and calories.  They were so gooood! So the cardiologist's wife isn't perfect.  However, my exercise and eating right most of the time kept me from gaining too much weight.  Now the holidays are over, I can return to being good. (I hope.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Dinner Fast Approaches

Christmas is only a nine days away and I just finished my shopping this morning, thanks to the Internet.  I hope my readers have finished their cards and shopping and can now relax and think about Christmas dinner.  Or maybe you'd rather not think about Christmas dinner as that is too stressful.  Perhaps you are hosting the family dinner for the first time and feel at a loss at what to cook.  I have already planned my menu for this important dinner as it is a huge part of our celebration.

We have a traditional meal on Christmas Eve.  After 5 o'clock church, we come home to cheese grits and ham.  I might add a salad or green beans but my husband loves cheese grits and ham.  The Christmas dinner varies each year depending on what I feel like cooking.  However, this is the one time I often cook beef.  I will share my Christmas menu with you as it is simple and very elegant.  You dinner guests will be impressed when the whole thing couldn't be easier.  

Spicy Beef Tenderloin
Party Potatoes
Cranberry Salad
Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries
Pull-away Rolls
Pumpkin Pie

Now I didn't say the meal was heart healthy but we do splurge on special occasions.  Beef tenderloin is very expensive too but will feed several people.  I'll post two recipes today and the rest next week.

Spicy Beef Tenderloin
Mix one cup port or red wine, 1 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. whole thyme, 1/2 tsp. tabasco, 4 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 bay leaf.  Place tenderloin in a large ziploc bag or dish and pour marinade over it.  Marinate over night or about 8 hours, turning occasionally.  Place on rack in baking pan. Cook at 425 for 45 to 60 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 150 for medium rare.

Party Potatoes (substitute regular mashed potatoes if you like)
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 stick of butter
4 cups of water
2 cups milk
5 cups instant mashed potatoes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
Mix cream cheese and sour cream together.  Bring water, milk and butter to a boil in a large pot.  Remove from heat and add potatoes.  Add cream cheese mixture and remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.  Refrigerate overnight.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot.

Use your favorite pumpkin pie recipe or the one on the Libby's can.  We didn't get pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving so by golly, we're having it for Christmas.  The beef is a no brainer; few ingredients and little effort but it always turns out beautifully.  I like that the potatoes and salad can be mostly made the day before, leaving you more free time on Christmas day.  Saturday, I'll post the other recipes so you can be ready as I may not post any next week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time For A New Confession

Confession is good for the soul; it forces you to admit that there is a problem and deal with it.  Now I don't think I have a problem yet but it is time to confess my sins.  I can't stay out of the Christmas cookies and I haven't been exercising like I should.  There!  I said it.  If I eat one cookie and it tastes so goooood, then I find myself opening the cookie tin and getting another, and another, and another.  Our annual cookie party was this past Sunday and we have plenty of leftovers.  Too bad there wasn't some of the mocha punch left.

Last week was not a good week for exercise due to the food poisoning episode so at least I have an excuse.  I really didn't feel energetic until Friday or Saturday.  Then there are all the holiday parties, concerts and the shopping to do which got in the way of exercise.  I am back to normal this week though, so no more excuses.

The one thing I have continued to do though, is to try to eat light, well balanced meals between parties.  Don't just give up around the holidays and think you might as well take a break and eat all you want.  I always try to eat especially light and healthy the day of a big party where there will be lots of temptations.  My family is still eating fish and chicken dishes with plenty of vegetables.  In fact, tomorrow I am making a vegetarian dinner.  I'm making a pot of navy beans for protein, braised cabbage and fried potatoes.

Cooking a pot of beans is one of the easiest things you can do.  I rinse a cup and a half or so of beans (navy, pinto, cranberry, whatever you like) and put them in a pot with enough water to more than cover the beans.  I add a bay leaf and bring the water to a boil.  When the water boils, I cover the pot and reduce the heat so the beans are just simmering.  I let them cook an hour or two until tender, then I salt and pepper them.  Be sure to check the beans occasionally for tenderness and to make sure you don't need to add more water.

Fried potatoes is one of the few fried foods I make.  I peel several red potatoes and slice them as thin as possible and place them in a large skillet.  I add two or three Tb. of canola oil to the skillet and turn it on high.  I flip the potatoes with a spatula when they are brown enough and continue cooking until they are nice and brown all over.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   The braised cabbage recipe is in my index.  I usually make a pan of cornbread to accompany this meal.  As you can see, it is loaded with fiber.

I hope you will consider making a pot of beans soon.  They are a fat free source of protein.  Add a bit of ham if you like to flavor the beans.      

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Diet That Works

Sorry, I'm just joking.  My husband and I are recovering from food poisoning and while we did shed a few pounds and don't really feel like eating much yet, I certainly don't recommend it as a way to lose weight.  However, I do feel the subject is worth mentioning since we will all be attending parties and preparing plenty of special meals.  Let's keep the season safe and healthy for all.

Food poisoning is very much like any stomach virus and has the same symptoms: fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, etc.  Food poisoning can set in 2 to 24 hours after eating contaminated food and last 1 to 14 days.  Stomach viruses take effect 1 to 2 days after exposure.  If several people get sick after eating the same food, food poisoning may be the cause.  My husband and I both ate the same salad at a restaurant on Monday and by about 2 or 3 on Tuesday afternoon, we were both sick so we suspect food poisoning.

Treat either by resting and drinking extra fluids as soon as your stomach will allow.  Drinking pedialyte or Gatorade isn't necessary but may help.  My family has always sworn by the BRAT diet after the stomach virus to ease back into food.  Eat Bananas, Rice, Applesauce or Toast as these seems to go down well.  Gingersnap cookies also help with nausea.  You'll probably want to avoid heavy meals for a few days.

If the symptoms persist more than two days or are very severe, seek medical help.  My son also suffered from salmonella once and was hospitalized for three days as he couldn't keep any fluids down and became dehydrated.  He continued to have diarrhea for at least another week.    

Please be careful in all your food preparations and make careful choices at parties and food buffets where food may have been sitting out too long.  Make sure you keep food at the proper temperature when serving it; hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  Don't eat food that has been left sitting out - toss it.  Refrigerate leftovers as soon as the meal is over.  When handling raw meat and eggs, wash your hands and all surfaces the food touches carefully in hot water.  If you are traveling to Grandma's for the holidays, don't transport foods long distances.  Prepare the food when you get there and leave the leftovers at Grandma's.  Wash fruits and vegetables before preparing them and discard questionable looking or smelling items.  Don't forget to wash your cleaning sponge or dishrags daily as these can harbor germs.  Get a good thermometer and cook meat to the proper internal temperature.

I hope these tips and reminders will help everyone to enjoy their holiday and avoid the stomach virus diet.  You don't want your friends and family to remember your holiday bash by how sick everyone was afterwards.    

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Apologies To All

I must apologize for my unexcused, two week absence.  The first week there were technical difficulties with the computer and my home computer nerd (son) was unable to help me work through them.  The week after Thanksgiving my husband had the week off and we were trying to finish our Christmas shopping.  Plus Tuesday was the last day of the Wanna Dance competition and I'm proud to say my partner and I finished a very close second.  Check out our dance on at wanna dance Brandy and Lisa if you'd like to see it.

I'm hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I believe time spent with those we love to be just as important to good health as anything else we do.  I confess that I didn't think my Thanksgiving dinner was very good.  First of all the turkey was simply awful and once again, there was no pumpkin pie.  I must find out what the good people of Mississippi have against pumpkin.  The best part of the dinner was the crab and brie bisque but that is not part of my Thanksgiving tradition.  There were 48 members of Barry's extended family at dinner and we did have a great weekend visiting people we don't often see.

Friday we toured an old plantation and then stopped by The Old Country Store restaurant in Lorman, Ms.  which has been featured on Alton Brown's show.  Alton Brown declared that owner Arthur Davis's fried chicken was the best he'd ever eaten.  Of course I was all about trying this chicken which was good but I still think my sister's is better.  Arthur does know how to prepare vegetables.  He only uses fresh ingredients, not frozen, and indeed, grows many of them in his garden.  The greens we ate had been picked the day before and I had seconds.   So often, vegetables are a neglected part of dinner so it's no wonder people won't eat them.  If you are ever in Natchez, Ms., get directions to Lorman as it's not far and worth the drive.

So the season of too much and over indulging has begun.  Try to eat sensibly between parties and family gatherings and don't neglect the exercise.  Exercise will also help with the stress so many feel at this time of year.

I will try to get past the technical difficulties this week and publish that last post that was giving me trouble.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Wow!  Just a little over a week till Thanksgiving, that feast of feasts, that shark feeding frenzy, that hog wild eating event.  Since I will be attending a family reunion in Natchez, Ms where we will eat at a restaurant, I won't be cooking this year.  Nor will I have leftovers to eat or seconds to gobble.  Controlled portions is a good thing.  And if we have nothing but lemon pie to choose from like last time, I won't even have any dessert.  Everyone knows you must have pumpkin pie, or pecan or at least sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving.

If you have been good and working out and eating like you should, the holiday season should be nothing to dread.  If you haven't been exercising, you can still start today.  Get off the couch and dance with the stars tonight or go back to the gym like you've been meaning to.  Remember, exercising will get you in shape for Black Friday, that 24 hour long period of intense shopping the day after the feast.  Only the fittest survive and succeed on Black Friday.  The wimps stay home.

I know many of my readers have an unrealistic idea of just what we do and don't eat at the cardiologist's house, so today I'm sharing a new pie recipe.  I made this pie for my sister's birthday dinner on Sunday.  I recently bought the new Southern Living Ultimate Christmas cookbook for $10 at Dillards.  All proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House.  Anyway, this recipe came from that cookbook and is a real winner.  It's very easy and sinfully delicious but only God knows the calorie count.  Make this as a sidekick to the pumpkin pie.

Caramel Chess Tart
1 refrigerated pie crust
1/2 cup butter softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
Powdered sugar to dust on finished pie

Fit pie crust in a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom or in a regular 9 inch pie plate.  Bake at 450 for 9 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.
Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in flour and buttermilk.  Add vanilla and stir well.  Pour into pie crust.  Bake at 350 until almost set.  Cool on wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.  Remove tart pan rim before serving, if using tart pan.

My goodness, this was so good, I'm surprised we didn't fight over it.  Get your turkey now and start letting it thaw around Sunday.  Check last year's blogs for some other recipes and ideas.  You can also make some casseroles ahead so you aren't swamped and tired on Thanksgiving day.  Divvy up the cooking and chores such as table setting and clean up.  One person doesn't have to do it all.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dance For Fitness

By now, you know I nag about getting enough exercise.  Exercise doesn't just help keep the weight off, it makes you feel so much more energetic and keeps you young.  That is especially true when you find something you love doing.  When you are having fun, you won't notice that you are sweating and you somehow don't mind that you are sore the next day.

I have always been active; horseback riding (which includes cleaning the barn, toting hefty bags of feed, pushing heavy wheelbarrows, etc.) walking, bike riding and yoga.  In the spring, I took up Latin dancing with my husband and we have both had so much fun.  If you have ever thought about dancing, now is the time to start.  Alex Lorenzana teaches Latin dance classes and Latin dance based fitness classes here in Jonesboro.  Don't worry if you've never danced before or about joining an ongoing class.  Alex makes Latin dance fun and easy to learn.  He does make it a good workout!  You will sweat your way to becoming more fit.  So far, we've learned cha cha, salsa, cumbia and merangue.  You can contact Alex at 870-761-8663 for more information.

Barry and I practicing salsa at home.  That is my dress for the Wanna Dance competition.

I ran into a friend the other day who told me she loves my green bean recipe I've featured here.  I sautee the green beans in olive oil until they are browned, adding garlic towards the end and seasoning with salt and pepper.  I just want to mention that sugar snap peas and broccoli are good done this way as well.   I use frozen peas and broccoli but steam them first, then sautee them.  The veggies are very tasty done this way.

I'm hoping everyone has a wonderful weekend and finds the joy in exercise!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Goodness

First of all, let me apologize for only posting once last week.  I've been very busy practicing for the Wanna Dance competition which is tonight!!  Second, let me welcome new readers and followers.  I hope you enjoy the recipes, health information and fitness tips.  Feel free to post any questions you have and I will do my best to get you an answer.

One of my favorite foods is pumpkin.  Some of you may be moving on at this point while others understand.  Not only is pumpkin so good for you, but you can do so much with pumpkin besides pies.  Yes, I love pumpkin pie too as do my kids.  It's just not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.  You may have seen the possum bread I made during my last attempt to make pumpkin bread but my pumpkin bars turned out delightfully as always.  I've also made pumpkin chili and we love pumpkin pancakes on the weekend.  My latest pumpkin recipe is pumpkin smoothies.  Smoothies can be an excellent way to get extra nutrition into the pickiest of eaters or they can be fat and sugar bombs so be careful.  The smoothies served at restaurants are almost always far too large and heavy on the calories so I avoid them.  I make smoothies at home to control what goes in and how large the serving is.

Pumpkin Smoothies
1 banana
16 oz. carton Greek vanilla yogurt
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
drizzle of honey
milk to thin as desired
Mix all ingredients in a blender till smooth.  Makes 4 small servings.

These smoothies would make a great breakfast with a bit of granola added.  Be sure to use Greek yogurt as it is higher in protein and lower in sugar.  My whole family liked these and I will make them again soon.

In the meantime, I must go put on my dancing shoes for one last practice.  Remember you can vote online at if you can't attend and videos of our performances will be posted after November 30th.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Time For Comfort Food

Finally cooler weather is here and that means time for some of our favorite comfort foods.  My menus change drastically with the weather and season, to take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables and also because some foods seem too heavy and hot for summer.  Comfort foods can be quick to prepare though they may need longer cooking times, like a pot of beef soup.  I have two family favorite meatloaf recipes I use most of the time.  I have already featured my meatloaf with shredded veggies so today I am sharing my other recipe which is actually easier too.

Brown Sugar Meatloaf
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 small onion chopped
3/4 cup finely crushed saltine crackers
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 5x9 inch loaf pan.  Press the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Spread the ketchup over the sugar.  Thoroughly mix remaining ingredients together and press on top of ketchup.  Bake for an hour or until lightly browned on top and juices run clear.

Serve this with the roasted fingerling potatoes which also cook for an hour (recipe on blog) and a fruit or other vegetable.  This meatloaf is sure to be a hit with your family.

I have been practicing several hours with my dance partner, Brandy, for the Wanna Dance competition.  You can support our efforts by voting for us with dollars by going to the Women's Discovery Center website and following the link to Wanna Dance 2010.  You can vote with a credit card or paypal.  The website is and you can also learn more about the organization.  Each couple's picture is posted with a vote button.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gotta Exercise To Lose Weight And Keep It Off

I've been a bit disturbed recently by different weight loss claims that you can join this group or take this pill and without "yucky exercise", you can lose a dress size by Christmas.  I hope none of my readers fall for these claims because if these things really worked so well, we wouldn't have so many obese people around.

If you read my posts on the Weight Watchers diet plan, you will see they promote a healthy approach to eating plus encourage exercise.  This is the type of program you should look for if you seriously need to loose weight.

Since I added more cardio workouts I have lost a couple of extra pounds.  I have found something fun to do so that I don't mind sweating.  So the key to a healthy life is eating a balanced diet, cutting calories and EXERCISE.  Even if those diet plans work and you lose a few pounds, you still won't be fit and the weight will likely come back.  So stop looking for miracle cures.

I'd like to share a new pork tenderloin recipe I made last night.  The family all gave it two thumbs up and it met my criteria for quick and easy.  I actually left the cooking up to my 16 year old son, the one who couldn't find the soft drinks I bought for the band Halloween party last Friday.  He searched all over the house but went to the party without the drinks.  They were hiding in the refrigerator the whole time, chillin'.  But he did well with the meat, getting it in the oven and basting it right on time.  It takes about 5 minutes to make the sauce and get the meat ready to cook.  Then you can leave the cooking up to anyone who can operate a cell phone, surf the net or lift a spoon.

Pork Tenderloin with Apricot, Garlic and Thyme Sauce
2 1lb. pork tenderloins
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 an 18 oz. jar of apricot preserves
1 tsp. dried thyme or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup sherry
Preheat oven to 350.  Salt and pepper the tenderloins.  Place in a large baking dish sprayed with baking spray.  Mix remaining ingredients in a 2 cup glass measuring cup.  Pour about 1/4 of the sauce over the meat. Roast meat for 30 to 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160.  Baste with additional sauce every 15 minutes or so.  This pairs well with mashed potatoes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What A Surprise!

It's not often that I serve a vegetable like cauliflower and my husband enthusiastically goes back for seconds.  I am always looking for new ways to prepare vegetables, particularly ones like brussel sprouts and cauliflower.  Last night I tried a new recipe and my daughter and husband really liked it.  My son ate it but said it was OK.  I thought it needed to be cooked longer.  Anyway, give it a try if you are in the mood to experiment.

Spicy Honey-Roasted Cauliflower
2 heads of cauliflower, trimmed and washed
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs or 2 tsp. herbs such as oregano, basil, garlic
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients except cauliflower in a small bowl and set aside.  Using a long knife, pierce the stem of the cauliflower.  Place in a deep baking dish, stem down.  Add about 1/4 inch  hot water to the dish, cover with foil and place in oven.  Bake about 10 minutes.  Remove cauliflower and raise oven temperature to 400.  Drain water and put cauliflower back in oven for 5 minutes to dry the heads.  Remove once more and coat with mustard/honey mixture.  Place in oven and cook 15 to 20 minutes more or until cauliflower is browned.

I think next time I make this, I will just microwave the cauliflower instead of steaming it in the oven.  I will just start with the oven at 400 and follow the rest of the recipe as is.  I also halved all the ingredients as I knew we could not eat 2 whole heads.

I also made the following fish dish which is very simple and well liked at my house.

Spicy Catfish With Lemon Cream
4 to 6 catfish fillets
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cups Japanese (Planko) breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper
4 egg whites
Sprinkle fish with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.  Combine breadcrumbs, remaining salt, garlic powder, and red pepper in a shallow dish.  Whisk eggs in another shallow dish until frothy.  Dip fish in egg whites, then the crumb mixture.  Place on a dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily.
Lemon Cream
8 oz. reduced fat sour cream
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and keep chilled until dinner.  Serve over catfish.

This is a light version of fried catfish without the greasy taste.  I didn't have any eggs last night so I dipped the catfish in olive oil first, then the crumbs.  This is quick to prepare and you can serve it with some steam in the bag vegetables for a stress free dinner.

If any brave souls try the cauliflower, please let me know, I'll be curious.  If you lack anything to do this Saturday and would like to support the Humane Society, come out for Bark in the Park.  You can bring your dog out at noon to register for a dog relay or the fun walk at 1 p.m.  The entry fee is only $10 and your dog will have a good time.  There will be a drawing for a gift pack as well as bobbing for weenies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Big Announcement

I do have a big announcement today:  I am participating in Wanna Dance?, a fundraiser for the Women's Discovery Center.  Couples from around town, different walks of life, are paired together to perform a dance (Latin, swing or waltz) for votes (money).  Each couple will dance on two different occasions and it has been alot of fun for most.  I am very excited.  I have always loved to dance and often wished I could compete in ballroom dancing.  However, I never seemed to live anywhere that was possible so in a way, this is a dream come true. 

I think I have two key things going for me.  I am in pretty good shape which I will need to pull off the Latin dance my partner and I will be doing.  The exercise I get has made a difference in that I haven't been sore or tired after our practice sessions.  I will say that I will be even more fit after all the practice we will be doing.  The other very important thing is that I have a great partner!  He is excited, competitive and eager to win, plus a good dancer.  So, if you live in Jonesboro, come out November 9th and cheer us on!

I wanted to respond to a comment made by a reader, Catherine, on my posts about better eating for teens.  I'm glad if I can help or inspire you and your daughter, that is what this blog is all about.  As I have said many times, my family doesn't always eat right or get enough exercise but we do most of the time.  Also read my posts on better lunches since your daughter now doesn't wish to eat school lunches after watching Jamie Oliver's show.  Make sure your family eats some fruit and vegetables every day - that is so important.  Try to instill in your family that eating is an adventure so they will be open to new foods.  Also equally important is the point of today's post - exercise.  You all know I love to eat and cook, but if I didn't exercise, I wouldn't be able to keep the weight in a normal range.  Plus I couldn't have fun doing the things I love, like dancing and riding my horse. 

Get out there and enjoy the wonderful fall weather.  Bark in the Park is this weekend at noon, pavilion 6 in Craighead Forrest.  A fundraiser for the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society, it features a dog relay and fun walk.  Your dog needs some fun and exercise too, so come on out.   

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tired Of Cooking

Yes!  I do get tired of cooking.  I get tired of planning meals, doing the shopping and cooking.  I do sympathize with those of you who don't like to cook.  But my solution is to make my easiest recipes instead of calling pizza delivery.  Most of the recipes I post are very simple and easy to make.  After all, I'm trying to encourage healthier eating by preparing your own food.  So today I'm sharing an easy chicken dish that I'm surprised I haven't shared before (I checked the list twice.)  I am also recommending a brand of frozen pizza when it's just too much trouble to cook. 

Cranberry Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1 16 oz. can jellied cranberry sauce
1 cup French dressing
Place chicken breasts in a glass cooking dish.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover and let marinate for about 8 hours.  Bake, covered with foil, for 1 hour 15 minutes at 350.  Since this takes about 10 minutes to do, mix it up before work and it's ready to go into the oven at night.  Also, you can half this recipe and it works great, just use the whole package of soup mix.  You can find 8 oz. cans of cranberry sauce too. 

Now tell me this dish isn't so easy anyone could make it and that it's much better than a Big Mac.  Serve the chicken and sauce over rice and add a steamed vegetable and dinner's on the table.

Amy's Mushroom and Olive frozen pizza not only passes the Eat This, Not That test but also the picky eaters' taste test.  This is truly one of the best pizzas I've eaten, frozen or not, and I'm very picky about the pizza I eat.  I think most pizza chains' pizza isn't fit to eat.  Amy's isn't greasy or overloaded with cheese, and the crust is crisp and delicious.  They can be found in the organic section of our local Kroger. 

I'm hoping to have a big announcement to make soon so check back next week. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Things To Do To Stay Healthy

These are a few things I believe in doing as often as possible for good health - every day if you can.

1.  Smile and laugh with your friends and family.  Having a good social life and a positive outlook on life will actually help you be healthier!

2.  Exercise!  You knew this one would be on the list, didn't you?  Try to squeeze in exercise where ever you can - use the stairs, park further away from the store entrance, walk on your lunch break.  Just do it!

3.  Eat your fruits and veggies.  Come on, have you eaten a fruit or vegetable today?  It's so easy to eat an apple, banana or even a handful of carrot sticks at lunch.

4.  Get enough sleep.  Americans tend to be chronically tired from not getting enough sleep.  It does have an effect on your health plus you won't be as productive at work.

5.  Drink plenty of fluids such as water or tea.  Skip the soda but stay well hydrated.  You will have more energy, fewer headaches, better looking skin and less trouble with constipation.

6.  Take good care of your teeth.  Studies have shown a link between heart disease and tooth decay or gum disease.  Bad teeth can also contribute to an overall weakened immune system.

7.  Enjoy your pets.  Studies show that people have lower blood pressure when interacting with animals.  That means time spent with your pet can reduce your level of stress, a win/win situation for everyone.

8.  Stimulate your mind with new challenges.  You don't have to go back to school, just do the sudoku puzzle in the paper, listen to different music or read something you ordinarily wouldn't.  Your brain needs exercise too in order to perform well.

9.  Keep track of your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.  Of course, you won't check all of these every day but you should know what your statistics are so you will be aware of any changes that needs to be addressed.

10.  Stretch.  I believe it is just as important to stretch your body every day as it is to exercise.  Stretching keeps your body from getting stiff and your joints from locking up as you get older.  Use a yoga tape or take a class to learn how to stretch properly.    

I hope you will think about these ideas and I really hope you are already doing most, if not all, of them. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dance of the Naked Chicken and Possum Bread

Just so you know, we don't always take our food so seriously around here.  In fact, sometimes we play with our food, especially when certain people (my sister) are present.  I'm pretty sure it was her idea to dress up the chicken.  Barry smoked it 'as is' in the Big Green Egg.   

And just so you know, the food doesn't always turn out wonderful.  There are many unworthy foods produced in my kitchen.  Witness the possum bread.
 I call this possum bread because that's who ate it.  Them or the coons or coyotes.  Perhaps you can see that it looks dense, almost gooey, not light and airy as pumpkin bread should look.  And I can tell you it didn't taste any better than it looks.  That's what happens when you screw up the recipe.  Actually I seem to have a problem with sweet breads because the last time I made banana bread, it turned into possum bread.  I haven't made it since.

Cooking for your family isn't about turning out professional looking dishes.  It is about love and the desire to do something good for the ones you care for.  Cooking can and should be fun and yes, even relaxing.  If you stop viewing cooking as a chore and try to see that it as an adventure, you will get more enjoyment out of doing it. 

I also believe cooking is about pleasing the cook first.  If the cook likes what he or she prepared,  chances are the family will too.  In other words, don't worry about picky eaters or pleasing everyone.  If someone complains, hand him the apron.

A lovely weekend is ahead.  I'll leave you with a simple side dish I made this week that is too delicious.  The unusual combination of asparagus and butternut squash works well together plus it's loaded with nutrition.

Asparagus and Butternut Squash
1 medium butternut squash
1 bunch fresh asparagus
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the squash in half length wise, scoop out the seeds and place in a glass baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave in 2 minute intervals till the squash is just barely fork tender.  Cooking time varies with the size of the squash.  Let cool while you wash and trim the tough ends from the asparagus.  Cut stalks into thirds.  Steam asparagus in microwave till crisp tender, drain.  Peel squash and cut into bite sized pieces.  Melt butter in skillet, add squash and asparagus.  Toss till heated through.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese.   

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wanting To Have My Cake AND Eat It Too.

I've learned something interesting lately:  I can't eat anything extra without gaining weight.  I've been trying to lose just 5 pounds so my jeans will be more comfortable.  Plus, I have acknowledged that I have indulged in too many chocolate milkshakes and other goodies over the summer when I wasn't exercising near enough.

I bought a nice set of scales at Target which somehow also calculate your percentage of body fat.  I weigh myself every morning before eating to track my weight.  I have cut back on unnecessary snacks, desserts and alcohol, plus made my portion sizes smaller.  I have gotten back into a better exercise routine.  And it has helped.

Last Friday, my weight was actually 124, 6 pounds lighter!  I was happy but cautious.  Sure enough, by Monday morning my weight was 126.  I'd gained two pounds over the weekend and I really didn't indulge that much.  I certainly hadn't gained two pounds of muscle either.  I guess my downfall was the tiny powdered sugar donut followed by the brat I ate at a band competition because I was bored ( I was supposed to be working in the kitchen making food for the concession stand but we didn't get started for nearly 2 hours.)  Then my sister made a wonderful but fattening chicken dish for Sunday dinner and I had a fuzzy navel too.

But it's not like I had a large brownie with ice cream and hot fudge sauce, a pancake extravaganza at IHOP or guzzled a few beers at a football game.  I do feel discouraged and yes, a bit deprived.  I'd really like my weight to hover around 125 and STILL HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO!  Don't we all?

The point is, and you knew there'd be a point,  you really do have to eat right and exercise most of the time to maintain good health and a normal weight.  It won't just happen and there is no magic pill at this time that will make it happen.  It requires discipline, self control, and the desire to be in charge of your own health.  So back to watching what I eat.

Things are not all bad however.  I did find a tasty new version of chili that received especially high ratings from my husband, pleased the kids AND, it's super fast to make.  What could be better on a fall evening?

Paula Deen's Spicy Vegetarian Chili
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. chipolte chili pepper*
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1 16 oz. can black beans
1 16 oz. can white beans
1 16 oz. can kidney beans
1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Open cans of beans and corn, drain and rinse.  Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and saute till tender and starting to brown.  Add garlic and saute 2 minutes more.  Add seasonings and saute 2 more minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until heated through. 
*Having an aversion to things chipolte, I used a pinch of cayenne pepper instead. 

I also omitted any extra salt even though I used reduced sodium beans.  Make sure to use veggie broth if you are wanting it to be strictly vegetarian.  If you are too rushed to chop onions, make sure you keep chopped onions in the freezer or buy them in the produce department.  Really, my husband or my children could make this recipe, no problem.  Saute the onion while you open cans and it goes together in about 15 minutes.   

Give this chili a try and let me know how you like it.  You won't miss the meat, my family didn't complain a bit.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Hard To Be Healthy, A Confession From The Doctor's Wife,

Did I ever mention that it's hard to be healthy?  In our society, eating right and getting enough exercise can be difficult, even for the dedicated.  I consider myself to be dedicated but not fanatical about good health.  And I find it difficult to do the right things every day.  Exercise is pretty easy for me.  I like to dance, swim and ride my horse.  When the weather is this lovely, I enjoy long walks.  I even like challenging myself to hold that yoga pose longer or do more sit ups.  However, I realize that not everyone loves to sweat or be sore the next day.  

Eating is my problem.  I love food, all kinds of food so I fight the battle everyday not to overeat.  Just yesterday I made chicken and dumplings, one of my favorite comfort foods.  Chicken and dumplings usually leads to me eating way more than I should but I did manage to restrict myself to a reasonable serving.  Nor did I indulge in a chocolate milkshake though I would have loved one.  So I sympathize with those of you who not only don't like to exercise but who don't like to cook and eat too much of all the wrong things. 

However, the more research I read, the more I realize that my health is in my hands.  I was just reading about how certain foods can affect the appearance of your skin.  If you want more youthful skin, skip refined sugar.  Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  And please put down the cigarettes!  Nothing ages your skin like cigarettes and the sun. 

While I have not read his entire book, Dr. Nicolas Perricone has a new book, Forever Young, which discusses the importance of diet to your skin.  He is a big proponent of the philosophy that you are what you eat.  He gives specific recommendations of what to eat to lessen the effects of aging.  You might want to check it out.  Of course, following a healthy diet such as the one he suggests will do great things for your insides.

Since we have a chilly weekend ahead, here is my sister's recipe for Red Beans and Rice, just the thing to warm you up.  Plus, you can freeze the leftovers for another meal. 

Pat's Red Beans and Rice
16 oz. dried kidney beans or 3 cans kidney beans
1 1b. spicy smoked sausage links
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
pinch of cayenne or Tabasco or to taste
2 cans of chicken broth if using dry beans
Rinse and pick over dry beans.  Place in a large soup pot; add bay leaves, broth and enough water to cover beans.  Simmer 2 to 3 hours or until tender.  If using canned beans, drain beans and place in pot.  Add broth and enough water to cover beans.  Saute celery, bell pepper, onion and garlic in 3 Tbsp. olive oil till lightly browned.  Add to beans along with the remaining ingredients.  Simmer another 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.  Serve with hot cooked rice.  You can also simmer a ham hock in the beans or add diced ham at the end if desired. 

If you are pressed for time, the canned beans work just as well and greatly reduce the cooking time.  Make some cornbread or corn muffins and you have a complete meal.  Have a lovely weekend and be sure to get out and enjoy the wonderful fall weather.    

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time To Double Up

This is the time of year that I make double batches of many dishes so I can freeze some for later.  Last night I made red beans and rice, an easy dish, and froze half for another meal.  This is such a simple dinner solution for all those busy nights when you really don't have time to cook. 

Here is my list of favorite foods that freeze well.
1.  Chili
2.  Spaghetti*
3.  Chicken spaghetti (I don't add the spaghetti before freezing.)
4.  Red beans and Rice (add rice later too)
5.  Beef Soup*
6.  Zydeco Soup*
7.  Minestrone (add pasta later)*
8.  Meatballs*
9.  Grilled or Smoked Pork Tenderloin
10.  White Chili (made with chicken and white beans)

Of course there are many casseroles and soups that freeze well.  I usually don't freeze the rice or pasta and while I have frozen chicken and dumplings, it just isn't as good as when made fresh.  I find it isn't much harder to make a double batch when I am already cooking.  I have had good luck freezing many things in gallon Ziploc bags but I also use those disposable plastic dishes with lids that go from the freezer to the oven.  Remember to label and date your food so you don't have to guess what it is later.    

Just think how nice it would be not to worry about dinner when you know your schedule is tight.  You simply pull out your meal and let it thaw in the refrigerator all day and heat it up that night.  Add a simple side dish or salad and you are done without relying on fast food.  I have a friend who regularly makes extra to freeze.  She likes to make baked goods such as muffins to freeze as well.  Give this a try and see if it doesn't make your life easier.

Thursday, I'll post a recipe for Red Beans and Rice.  Until then, you may want to check out these ideas for keeping track of the calories you consume each day.  Use apps on your iPhone such as  or Lose It!  Many restaurants have their nutrition information online so you can see just what you are ordering.  You can print these out and keep them in your car for reference.   The USDA has two websites you may find helpful; and 

*Recipes for these are on my blog, see the list on the side.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Night Fast Food

Just like many parents, I have a busy Friday night.  I have one child who will swim till 6 and one who must be at the band room at 5:30 before the ballgame.  My husband and I need to be at the game later to help with band uniforms.  We all need to eat and you know by now that we will not be eating fast food.

I make my own fast food at home that is so much better.  This recipe I'm about to share is so easy my husband could make it.  Check out Eat This, Not That for some recommendations for store bought chili to use.  If you make a big batch of chili and freeze some, you could have your own chili to use in this dish.  This is a great comfort food dish for those cold nights that I'm sure are coming soon, despite the unseasonable, 90 degree temps we've been having. 

I will make this dish and pop my son's in the oven early so he can eat, then cook the rest so we can eat after swim practice but before going to the game.  I plan to serve fresh fruit with it.

Cheesy Hash Brown Chili Bake
4 cups of chili
1 16 oz. bag of shredded hash browns
1 cup of cheddar cheese or your favorite
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 1 tsp. dry
Salt and pepper to taste.  You may not need salt depending on the salt content of the chili.
Heat oven to 425.  Grease 4 oven safe individual ramekins.  Divide the chili among the dishes.  Thaw hash browns and blot with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.  Mix hash browns with cheese and cilantro, salt if needed, and pepper.  Sprinkle over chili.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes till bubbly. 

Yum!  Sure to please everyone and you could even use vegetarian chili for the vegetarians in your family.  I hope you enjoy the outdoors this weekend.  The Cardiology Associates Heart and Sole run and walk is Saturday morning and my husband and I will be walking.  Check back next week for an interesting announcement.    

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Things You CAN Eat

I posted a list of the top ten things to avoid recently so in return, I'm posting things it is OK to eat (in moderation of course).  I always try to make the point that we aren't strict vegetarians around here, nor do we forgo sweets and some fat in our diet.  We aim to get it right most of the time. 

That said, here is the list of things you may think you shouldn't eat but that it is perfectly OK to have them, quite frequently in fact.

1.  Alcoholic beverages.  Now I'm not saying it's OK to have a 6 pack every night or a kegger at your next party but studies show some alcohol can even be good for you.  Red wine in particular is good for your heart and I recently read a study which shows that moderate drinkers, not teetotallers or alcoholics, actually live longer.  Interesting, isn't it? 

2.  Avocados.  Yes, they are high in fat but it's the good fat.  Make some fresh guacamole this weekend and enjoy it with a few chips and a margarita.  Just remember it does have alot of calories so don't eat the whole bowl.  Avoid the store bought guacamole as there's not as much of the good stuff in it and it has a whole bunch of salt.  I'm not sure there is even any avocado in it; maybe they just used green food coloring.

3.  Chocolate.  Yes!  Enjoy your chocolate now and then.  By that, I didn't mean the chocolate lava cake at your favorite restaurant or a Hostess cupcake.  Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and can help lower blood pressure.  Unfortunately, milk chocolate doesn't do the trick.  Nuff said.

4.  Eggs.  I think these little oval beauties are nutritional gems.  We eat at least a dozen eggs in a dozen different ways each week, usually more.  Eggs are versatile and cheap, so start your day off right and have an one for breakfast.

5.  Dairy products, excluding ice cream.  Sorry if your hopes got dashed there.  Dairy isn't just for kids and adults reap the same benefits from the calcium and protein.  Select skim milk to avoid the fat, and the reduced fat in most everything else such as cottage cheese, yogurt and cheese.  Remember to watch the amount of cheese you use in sandwiches and casseroles and to be stingy with the sour cream.

There!  Eating healthy doesn't always have to be about vegetables and starving yourself.  So have a glass of red wine tonight.  Your doctor would approve.  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's A Waistline, Not A Waste Land

If you have been listening to the radio this week, or maybe you caught this tidbit elsewhere, you heard the news that clothing manufacturers are conspiring to make you think you are smaller than you are.  I was aware that women's clothing had actually gone up in size from the days of my youth, but I had no idea of the true extent of the deception. 

In case you missed the news, men's jean sizes actually measure much differently than the size stated on the label.  The difference varies from brand to brand.  For example, Old Navy men's size 36 jeans measured a whopping 41.5 in the waist.  I don't care what kind of math you do, 36 does not equal 41.5.  The manufacturers do this as a marketing ploy so you will buy their brand.  Who wouldn't like to feel they can wear size 36 rather than 41?  However, this deception is dangerous to your health.  We are already good at fooling ourselves into perceiving things differently than they are.  We don't need clothing companies helping us believe we are smaller than we are, thus ignoring a health problem.  And a large waist is a health problem waiting to happen, not just a cosmetic issue.

A waist measurement larger than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men is an indicator of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that also includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar.  Metabolic syndrome leads to increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and other unsavory diseases.  According to the American Heart Association, 47 MILLION Americans are affected by metabolic syndrome. 

Let's get real people.  The Michelin tire man and the Pillsbury Dough boy are not the new age sex symbols.  Let's not blame doctors when they can't fix our health problems we caused.  Let's try something different for a change - take charge of your own health.  Most of risk factors for metabolic syndrome can be reversed by eating healthy foods in reasonable proportions and exercising, plus giving up cigarettes.  If you think you are worth it, do something.  Just don't buy the size 36 jeans. 

I'd like to announce a new feature on the blog.  I've started a recipe index so you can find a recipe without hunting for it.  Try something new this weekend.  And start exercising now.    

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beware The Food Manufacturer

I know many of you just don't get my passion for eating right and exercising as a means to good health.  I know most of us just expect good health to happen and wonder why we are "unlucky" when our health goes to hell in a hurry.  And do we want our doctors to fix our problems in a hurry!

Having two parents who suffered from many health problems, plus a husband who is a physician and dedicated to promoting better health, has definitely affected my outlook.  I don't want to spend time and money at the doctor's office or hospital trying to fix what I ruined.  Please don't take your good health for granted.  View it as the precious gift that it is and take care of it like you do your other possessions. 

A recent Harvard study showed that women who already have heart disease are three times as likely to die suddenly from cardiac arrest when they eat a diet high in trans fats.  You should know that trans fats are found in highly processed foods like fries, snack cakes, cookies and crackers.  A food has trans fats if the ingredients include partially hydrogenated oils.  Many  food companies have begun switching oils since trans fats are getting the bad reputation they deserve but be careful.  Palm, coconut or palm kernel oils are highly saturated fats and are no better for you in the long run.  Look for foods that contain canola, soybean or other non-hydrogenated fats.

What would you rather eat?  A simple homecooked meal that is good for you and tastes good or some store bought crap with who knows what in it?

 Fried okra, tomato salad featured in previous blog, butter beans and boiled potates.

This simple meal was delicious and full of nutrition.  The okra was the hardest thing to make because it involved alot of slicing.  Doesn't this look more appetizing than pizza or another tired hamburger?  Doesn't your body deserve better?  Think about it. 

I'll be working on an index of my recipes.  Hopefully that will be ready soon so you can find them easily. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Foods To Embrace

After my last post about foods to avoid, a friend jokingly asked what's left to eat?  Now I know she knows better but some of you don't know there is a world of food out there to explore.  Being a foodie, my mission is to leave no food unexplored (except for those involving insects or spoilage).  The best approach to food is not to view food preparation as a chore but rather as an adventure.  That does not mean we should set out to eat at every fast food chain in the nation.  Rather we should enjoy the chance to try new things. 

My family tried the new Indian restaurant here in Jonesboro and we loved it.  The spicy smells that greeted us when we walked in the door were irresistible.  I discovered mango lassi, the kids liked the milk balls in honey syrup for dessert and Barry learned once again to listen to his wife.  He ordered his food spicy, not mild, which was a bit much for his American taste buds.  He said it was only a bit milder than the chipolte incident awhile back.  See?  An adventure in eating.

I have a wonderful new salad recipe to share that may seem outside of your comfort zone of what should and should not go together.  Trust me, the flavors of this salad go together amazingly well.  Plus, it is a very attractive dish.  It is easy to make and the leftovers were just as good the next day.  Try it this weekend before you can't find the ingredients.  The key to this recipe is finding good tomatoes.  Store bought just won't do so steal some from your neighbor's garden if necessary. 

Tomatoes with Fresh Peaches, Goat Cheese and Pecans
2 lbs tomatoes, sliced (try heirloom or different varieties mixed together)
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 minced garlic clove
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large diced, peeled peach
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped basil
3 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans
Lay tomato slices in a pretty dish.  Whisk vinegar through salt together.  Add peaches and basil.  Pour gently over tomatoes.  Sprinkle with pecans and cheese and fresh black pepper to taste.       

I had yellow tomatoes but it would have been nice if I had a mix of tomato varieties.  Enjoy one of the last summer weekends we'll have and don't forget to exercise!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Top Ten Foods To Avoid (Or Ignore As Much As Possible).

I was thinking the other day that if more people simply avoided eating certain popular foods, we'd have less of an obesity epidemic.  So I decided to come up with my own list of the top ten foods to avoid as much as possible.  That doesn't mean eating them only once a day - it means eating these foods once a month or less.  Really. 

I'm pretty successful at keeping these foods out of our hands most of the time.  However, if you are a regular reader, you know I confessed to a milkshake habit recently.  I'm getting a handle on it though.  Without further preaching, here is my list of the top ten worst foods, in no particular order.

1.  Chips.  Need I say more?  Even baked, there is nothing here but fat and salt, neither of which is particularly good for you. 

2.  Ice Cream.  Cold, creamy, smooth and delicious, might as well spread it on your belly.  Don't try the "but it's dairy" routine.

3.  Fries.  No, these don't count as a vegetable and they are just as bad as chips.  Find a healthier version of potatoes.

4.  Sodas.  I know they can be addictive and taste good but really, would you mix up some sugar, water and a bit of food coloring and drink it?  That's basically what sodas are.  And because we tend to think what we drink doesn't count, these babies can pack on the pounds. 

5.  Pizza.  The pizza chains have taken what could be a decent food and turned it into a fat and salt nightmare.  Just say no unless your aim is to look like the Michelin man. 

6.  Hamburgers.  Same thing as pizza.  What could be a decent food has been supersized and fatticized into another metabolic nightmare for your body.

7.  Cookies, cakes, donuts, etc.  Little Debbie and the Kebler Elves are not your friends.  They are greedy profiteers who could care less that their products make rolls around your waist as long as they are putting dough in the bank. 

8.  Bacon and sausage, or any fatty meat.  Yes, I love good bacon, especially on a BLT.  However, fatty meat isn't going to do anything except make you a fatty.  There are better forms of protein.  Find them. 

9.  Coffee drinks.  Frozen, hot, latte or not, coffee drinks have become one of our pleasures but we don't stop to think about the growing calorie content.  These drinks have come along way from a simple cup of joe.

10.  Cheese.  Now you may wonder why I've put an innocent food like cheese on this list.  Cheese is fine in moderation but it has become a much abused additive to our food.  I actually love cheese but not when it is gobbed on sandwiches, pizza, casseroles or salads.  Cheese can be high in fat so use cautiously please.

I hope you'll think about this list, particularly if your kids eat these foods on a regular basis.  You are not doing them any favors if they do.  I hope everyone had a lovely Labor Day weekend and got some good exercise while enjoying friends and family. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Time For Another Confession

Some say that confession is good for the soul but to tell the truth, I'd rather not tell some things.  However, in my quest for good health and in order to help you in your quest for good health, I feel compelled to make confessions sometimes.  Today's confession is: I really wanted to loose an inch this summer but haven't managed to do so.  My love of good food gets me in trouble.  Perhaps I would have been more successful if I hadn't hurt my back and spent several weeks taking it easy and doing rehab.  Perhaps I would have been more successful if I hadn't developed a nasty habit of having too many after dinner milkshakes, no matter how small they were.  Perhaps if I didn't love martinis and if I didn't eat the brownie crumbs from cutting the brownies I made for the church youth group, I would have kissed that inch goodbye.

The good news, and there is good news,  I didn't gain any either.  I maintained my weight and size by eating right most of the time and exercising as much as possible.  The point is we have to be diligent.  We have to keep up the good fight and do what we know to be right.  You can't loose a bunch of weight or have it sucked off and stick with your bad habits.  That fat will come right back and bring more with it. 

The bad news is that the winter holidays and all that party food is just around the corner, waiting for you.  Make a pact with yourself and a friend or someone you love.  Resolve to start exercising this WEEK and to support each other.  Start small, exercise for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  Build on that and make sure to do something you like.  Cut back on the portions you eat right NOW.  You don't need seconds of anything unless it's water or raw vegetables.  Start now and you'll be prepared and in shape to battle your way through the office Christmas party or Aunt Pat's pecan pie.  Start now and you'll feel good about yourself.  Taking action rather than wallowing in inaction gives you power and makes you stronger.

Think about it: deep down, you know I'm right.    

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Build A Better Lunch

Continuing our back to school theme, let's talk about building a better lunch.  What you eat for lunch can make or break your diet.  If you are grabbing fast food with your co-workers or letting your children eat what passes for a nutritious lunch in the school cafeteria, you are neglecting your health and that of your children.  Eating those types of lunches should only happen occasionally.  Don't tell me you don't have time to prepare lunch in the morning, get organized.  Yes, your kids can help with their own lunch if you provide some good choices. 

Tuesday's blog provided a few ideas that work for lunch or snacks but let's think about sandwiches.  There is nothing wrong with a good old peanut butter sandwich for lunch for kids or adults.  I love peanut butter; just pick a brand with the least sugar, salt and other additives.  Use whole wheat bread and then get creative with toppings.  You can just use your favorite jam but you could add sliced bananas as well or a sprinkle of raisins or other dried fruit.

Many times we stick with just meat and cheese on our sandwiches which is pretty boring after awhile.  Try using a different bread such as rye or adding some roasted red pepper (buy the jarred kind) to your sandwich.  I recently tried the "living" lettuce which still has the roots attached.  It stays fresher longer and is easier to break off the leaves than the iceberg lettuce.  You could also add thin slices of cucumber to your sandwich for some crunch.  I have even been known to add a couple of slices of bacon to a sandwich. 

I mostly buy whole wheat bread but for variety, I often get the new super thin bagels or the thin buns some of the bread companies have come out with.  Experiment with different condiments too but use less of the fatty ones like mayo.  I like cranberry sauce on turkey with Havarti cheese.  I really like avocado and red onion on turkey but it's hard to keep avocado from turning brown.  Kids find it fun to use two different kinds of bread or ham and turkey together.

For sides, grab that fruit or some yogurt.  Skip the chips and cookies.  And PLEASE don't give your kids a soda for lunch.  You don't need one either; drink tea or water.  Even if you and your kids don't take lunch every day, try to do it 2 or 3 times a week.  It will really help.  The weekend is approaching so use it to plan next week's lunches.          

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Snack Better - 10 Suggestions

School has started and that means I have lunches to pack and after school snacks to provide.  I am always looking for new things for my kids' lunches instead of the same old peanut butter sandwich and yogurt.  I'm hoping this year YOU make a vow to limit processed foods and offer your kids something better.  It doesn't have to be hard, just use your imagination and start with this list.
10 Suggestions for better lunches and snacks.

1.  Boiled eggs.  Couldn't be easier or more portable.  Works for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.  A bit a salt and pepper makes it better.  Boil up a bunch one night to top off a salad or to eat by itself.

2.  Raw vegetables and a low fat dip such as ranch.  Yes, kids will eat raw veggies if you put a tray out on the table.  You can even purchase vegetable trays at the store or put your own together.

3.  Hummus with raw vegetables, pita bread or chips.  Hummus can even be a substitute for mayo or mustard on sandwiches.

4.  Fresh fruit.  How simple is a banana or an apple tucked into your lunch?  It's as easy as grabbing a bag of chips and better for you.  Kids can help themselves to fruit like grapes and strawberries.

5.  Cottage cheese.  Serve plain or with fruit or raw vegetables and get a serving of dairy.

6.  Peanut butter on toast.  Melted peanut butter just seems to taste better.  Top with bananas or a drizzle of honey.  Oh, make the toast whole wheat.

7.  Nuts!  Almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts all pack alot of nutrition in a very portable package.  Mix with some dried fruit like raisins or cherries to make your own trail mix.

8.  Chips with a layered bean dip or homemade salsa.  Get some fresh vegetables and fiber into your kids while giving them chips!  Don't rely on the jarred stuff though or you are defeating the purpose.

9.  Smoothies.  Make them at home with fruit, yogurt and a splash of orange juice.  If you have a Magic Bullet processor the clean up is much easier.  Kids can do this by themselves too.

10.  Cheddar fondue with apple slices.  The following fondue recipe is simple and quick to whip up and makes for a different treat.  Try other things to dip such as thick slices of ham or cubes of bread.

Cheddar Fondue
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
Melt butter over low heat in a medium sauce pan.  Add flour and stir well.  Slowly add milk, stirring constantly.  When milk mixture is warm, add cheese in small amounts, stirring till melted.  Serve warm.

I hope you've gotten a little inspiration and you're ready to forgo the DingDongs and put down the Pringles.  Skip the lurid colored jello which is just jelled sugar water.  Give yourself and your kids something to power up your brains and keep you slim. 


Friday, August 20, 2010

School Has Started But Summer Ain't Over

I find it amusing that we tend to think that summer ends when school begins.  Look at the calendar: we still have plenty of hot summer days left.  The severe heat we've been experiencing has really zapped my appetite and my desire to cook as well.  Still we must eat and I still don't like fast food so what is the cardiologist's family eating these last dog days of summer? 

One thing I find appealing is plenty of fresh fruit served really cold, especially melons.  I love icy cold watermelon with a bit of salt and pepper on it.  Salt and pepper enhances the sweet flavor of melons.  I also love cantalope with cottage cheese and blueberries, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper of course.  Pasta salads, if you avoid all the fatty dressings and use plenty of raw veggies, are another excellent choice.

We are still eating fish as often as possible and I have another recipe to share with you.  This baked salmon dish is packed with nutrition plus turns out beautifully, making you look like Bobby Flay.  Give this recipe a try and you'll be out of the kitchen in no time.  Serve with a side of roasted potatoes or steamed asparagus. 

Baked Salmon with Strawberry Salsa

4 to 6 salmon fillets
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange, sliced thin
1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 clove garlic, minced

Place salmon in a baking dish lightly coated with baking spray.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with orange and pepper slices.  Mix remaining ingredients and spoon over fish.  Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily.  I like my salmon to be just a bit undercooked as it retains more moisture that way.  You can discard the orange slices before serving if desired.  This dish is very unique with the fruit and fish combo. 

Next week I will give some lunch box suggestions for back to school lunches.  Have a lovely summer weekend. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good To Be Home

Finally!  The long summer of 2010 is drawing to a close.  I am dreaming of snow and ice; at least some cool fall days.  The heat has just about whipped me - I'm done with sweating.  I'm done with traveling every weekend too.  My whole family agrees that we are ready to stay home for awhile. 

Our weekends in Lincoln, Nebraska and Sparta, Illinois went very well; the kids had a great time and both performed well in their respective sports.  I ended up going to Sparta which I will fail to adequately describe.  Unless you go there in person, you cannot imagine what the World Shooting and Recreational Complex is truly like.  The trap fields stretch as far as you can see and the constant pop of gunfire from early in the morning till dark serves as constant background noise.  The place oozes testosterone and I could never have imagined such a collection of guns anywhere.  The hotels for miles around are filled with gun toting men, giving a surreal effect to the whole experience.  Meanwhile, Barry had a perfectly normal weekend at the swim meet.  Nothing unusual there unless you count seeing large numbers of very fit children.  Sad that healthy, active children are becoming more rare.

My son with a $16,000 gun at one of the many stores in Sparta.

Now we are ready to resume a more relaxed home life if such a thing exists.  I've kept up my exercise as much as possible with being on the road so much.  I tried to watch the food I ate as road trips can easily lead to eating too much of the wrong thing.  In between our travels, I've even managed to find a few new recipes, one of which I'm sharing today.  I have a couple of tips for eating better when traveling: 1. always eat a good breakfast, skip the sweets and have eggs or oatmeal and some fruit. 2. Take some healthy snacks and a cooler of water, tea or G-2's with you so you won't be tempted to eat junk. 

I tried this recipe a few weeks ago and it was an instant hit.  And because it's easy, I'll make it often.  This is an elegant side dish for any meat and a tasty way to prepare carrots. 
Caramelized Carrots

2 lbs. whole small carrots, peeled, with a bit of green top left on
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Heat the oil in an extra large skillet and add the carrots.  Sprinkle with salt.  Cook covered for 10 minutes.  Uncover and turn, then add garlic.  Cover and cook 10 more minutes or until carrots are tender and golden brown on both sides.  Remove carrots from pan and keep warm.  Add cream and cayenne pepper to skillet.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer until cream is slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes.  Pour over carrots.  Sprinkle with fresh snipped parsley if desired.

I hope everyone is getting in school mode!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Going to Nebraska and Sparta

I will probably not have time to post this week as I will be going to Nebraska with my daughter for a Zones swim meet.  She is terribly excited as this is her first really big swim meet.  We were in Fayetteville this weekend for state long course finals and she qualified to go on to zones.  I'm so proud of her for all her hard work and training, plus she was having the worst swim meet of her life this weekend.  Then today in her last race, she dug deep and pulled out a qualifying time!

My husband will be traveling this week also to Sparta, Illinois for a national trap shoot with my son.  He has been fortunate to go the last two years and to be on a team that has won several state and national titles.  It has all come through their hard work and dedication to their sport. 

Have a lovely, healthy week and be careful of the heat.  I will be struggling to eat well on the road and to get any exercise!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Know What You Are Eating - Eat Real Food

I had my husband pick up some food from Chick-fil-A recently to support a favorite charity that was having a fundraising event there.  Chick-fil-A is a great community supporter and I applaud their policies like not being open on Sunday.  However, it is still fast food and I really don't like the food.  My daughter, who is alot like me and tries to make healthy food choices, picked up the honey mustard sauce that came with our meal and started reading the ingredient list.  While the list of ingredients did include honey, no where did it mention mustard unless the natural flavor is really mustard.  The list also included things like xanthan gum and oleoresin tumeric.  I was intrigued.  How can it be honey mustard without the mustard?  The point is: Know what you are eating. 

If you can't recognize the ingredients listed on a package, you really shouldn't eat it as part of your regular, everyday diet.  Look for prepared foods that have the fewest ingredients.  If all the preservatives in food preserved me as well, giving me a long shelf life and keeping me looking like I did in my twenties, I'd eat a truck load of it.  Our diet consists of food that has been picked or plucked from the garden or water and still looks like it did in the field and stream.  We do eat bread, crackers, granola bars, cereal, etc. but we try to keep that to a minimum. 

Yes, it is work to shop for and prepare food, then clean up the mess.  But isn't your family worth it?  Don't you want to safeguard your health?  You don't want to spend time in the hospital do you?  Don't forget - everyone can and should pitch in and help with meals.  One person doesn't have to do it all.  Last week, my kids made spaghetti and meatballs, all from scratch.  They had fun doing it and it was delicious.  This week, they are making pork chops with pineapple salsa and roasted carrots.  I enjoyed the break from the kitchen.  So turn the kids loose in the kitchen.  They are probably bored and looking for something to do this summer. 

Go to the local farmers market and pick out some fresh vegetables.  Don't tell me the kids (or you) don't like vegetables.  That means you've never had them cooked well.  Start with some corn on the cob.  That cooks in about 3 minutes in boiling water and everyone likes corn.  Get some cucumbers and tomatoes and put them in a salad.  Grill some chicken and you are done.  Just please put down the Pringles (which aren't real potato chips, read the label) and pass up the twinkies.  Grab some real food.         

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Wow!  Have you heard the news?  Time to celebrate.  Arkansas has moved up to number 8 on the list of most obese states.  We were number 10.  With a little more work, we can finally be number 1 at something instead of Mississippi and West Virginia, those perennial favorites for anything bad such as teen pregnancy rates, poverty or obesity rates. 

Sorry for my sarcasm and I really don't mean to step on anyone's toes.  I just want people to wake up and take responsibility for their health.  I just wish this message would reach more people and that they could lead better lives by making a few changes.  It is hard in today's society to eat healthy and be active.  There is food everywhere; too much of it and the wrong kinds of food.  I sympathize because, believe it or not, I struggle every day.  Making good food choices is hard work and it is so much easier to sweep through McDonald's than to peel, chop and cook vegetables.  It is so much easier to plop on the couch after a long day and pick up the remote than it is to go to the gym.

But, it is not easier to fix your health after it's broken and it will cost alot more too.  The worst part is, your health may not be fixable and you may die at a really young age or have chronic problems that limit the things you can do.  That's not the way I want to live, nor do I want that to happen to my children.

If you have a weight problem, I'd like you to try something for the next 30 days: give up something you know is not good for you.  Just one thing, don't try to change everything and don't try to give it up cold turkey.  If you drink too many sodas for instance, give up one a week until you have cut back to only one a day or less.  At the same time, try to do something good for yourself.  Walk one block three times a week and gradually increase the distance.  Just one block or one soda is a tiny baby step but you can do it.  Above all, start to educate yourself on nutrition, exercise and health.  The more you know, the better choices you will make.  I really hope this blog helps in making those choices and gives you encouragement.  Have a happy, healthy weekend with those you love.

By the way, I have added a gadget at the bottom of each post so you can email or add to facebook any posts you are interested in sharing with friends or family.   

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time to Review: What Are You Drinking?

In March of 2009, I wrote about beverages and how they can be part of a healthy diet or contribute to a disastrous diet.  I am writing about what we drink and how it affects your body again because of a teen I met who is seriously overweight and already has some serious health problems.

I grew up drinking the occasional soda, usually grape or orange, but it wasn't an everyday thing.  My parents served me milk, water and orange juice most of the time.  As I got older, I became addicted to caffeine and drank sodas everyday.  At some point, I grew tired of being tied to caffeine and weaned myself off sodas.  Now I rarely drink one because they are too sweet.  My husband drinks coffee and tea with Splenda.  My kids have sodas once in awhile but drink G-2, milk or water most of the time. 

What's wrong with sodas?  A 12 oz. can of soda contains around 160 calories but has no nutritional value.  All that drink has to contribute to your body is another layer around your waist.  Let's say you need 2000 calories a day to maintain a normal body weight.  (Of course, your calorie needs vary based on age, sex, activity level, etc.)  And, let's say you drink about 6 cans of soda a day.  That's 960 calories just for the soda and you haven't eaten a thing.  If you add just two slices of pepperoni pizza to your day, that's about 580 calories, leaving you with only 460 calories or one quarter pounder with cheese but no fries, to eat.  Not alot of food for one day if you are concerned about not gaining weight. 

If you drink alot of soda or other sweet drinks, you could see a big difference in your health just by switching to water, unsweetened tea or nonfat milk.  You have to remember that most everything you put into your mouth has calories in it and contributes either to your good health or to wrecking your health.  All that sugar in soda also causes problems for your body that can eventually lead to diabetes. 

I am hoping that young man can get the help he needs to understand how important better nutrition and exercise is to his health.  Otherwise, he may find in a few years that he was middle aged when he was 17, like so many who start having health problems, even heart attacks, in their 30's. 

In the meantime, try this drink as an alternative to sodas.  Fill a glass with ice, then at least 1/2 way with seltzer water.  Top it off with limeade and a tsp. of maraschino cherry juice.  It still has some carbonation and fewer calories.  Use more seltzer water for even less calories.  It's light and refreshing.      

Friday, July 16, 2010

Smack in the Middle of Summer

We are smack in the middle of summer and I'm not sure I can last to the end these days.  The heat wears me out and the mosquitos drive me crazy.  Every breathe feels like I'm drawing in syrup, not air.  I want to hole up in the air conditioning, safe from biting insects.  I guess all that mulching I did this spring was not a good idea because I've been battling back problems for at least a month now.  Sounds absolutely pitiful, doesn't it? 

So has the cardiologist's wife stopped exercising?  Are we eating out to avoid heating up the kitchen?  Am I leaving to spend the rest of summer in a cooler climate?  Not hardly.  It's hard to give up habits once they are formed, good ones or bad.  So I am doing physical therapy for my back and have stopped my usual exercise routine.  I'm still doing yoga and riding my new horse but going very easy on her.  My therapist agrees that swimming is ok so I'm going to increase my laps to make up for the other things I've stopped.  My husband and I are still going to our dance class which I love.  After all, (and here's a confession) I've got to get rid of the few pounds I put on during vacation.  Plus, I'm not one to sit on the sidelines all the time.

I hope you've been active all summer and haven't just sat in the stands at your daughter's softball game, swigging cokes and hotdogs or plopped your butt in a chaise by the pool, drinking a margarita while the kids swim.  Get in the game, get up, get going, have FUN!  Don't let life pass you by while you surf the internet or watch late night TV.  Fix the physical problems and don't let them sideline you either.  Don't wait till age 65 and suddenly wish you had done things differently concerning your health. 

As for food, and you know food is always on my mind, we are back to eating light now that vacation is over.  Gone are the desserts (and martinis).  Take advantage of summer's abundance.  Last night we had fried okra, eggplant and purple hull peas with cornbread for dinner.  We all love fried okra at our house and it can be a part of a healthy diet.  Here is my version of fried okra, without all that yucky batter on it.

Fried Okra
A large bunch of fresh whole okra, washed.  Don't buy okra that is too long - it will be tough.  Always get more okra than you think you need by the way.
canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
Trim stem ends from okra and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds.  Add enough oil to barely cover the bottom of a large, nonstick skillet and heat over medium high heat.  Add okra and sprinkle with cornmeal till lightly dusted.  Saute until partly browned.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Okra should be somewhat crunchy yet soft in the middle.  Enjoy!    


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vacations: Not Just For Fun

Once again I have slipped up and left without a word.  Sorry everyone, I was on pre-vacation and vacation.  Pre-vacation is the time before the vacation where you are scrambling around getting ready to leave.  At our house, that involves arranging for the care of seven animals in our absence as well as getting everyone packed.  There is also the post vacation period where you are scrambling around washing piles of dirty clothes and wading through knee high stacks of junk mail and newspapers.  Vacations are alot of work.

This time our vacation reminded me of just how important vacations really are.  I was crabby, tired and run down before we left from our hectic and fast paced schedule.  I couldn't wait to get to Seaside, Fl., the oasis in our year long marathon.  When we get to Seaside, time slows and we do a whole lotta nothing.  Everyone is content to go the beach, rest all afternoon, eat like hogs, poke around in shops and ride bikes for miles.  We read books, nap, laugh and play games.  And of course we eat.  I wouldn't like to mention how much weight Barry and I gained.  Most importantly, we didn't stress about anything and we reconnected as a family.

That's the important part of vacationing - getting away from stress and enjoying the ones you love.  I hope everyone can find a way to leave home and go somewhere to relax.  Somewhere away from the boss, the traffic, the next T-ball game or whatever crowds your life.  Rest or vacationing is vital to our mental health and well being.  And remembering why we love the ones we're with is the best part of all.