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Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day is the day set aside for remembering our veterans and the sacrifices they've made for us.  Many of you probably have a vet in your family or among your friends.  Invite them over for a cookout this weekend - you know you're going to have one.  I been publishing some of my favorite recipes for the grill and a couple of appetizers too but what's a cookout without potato salad?  I've got a couple of new takes on potato salad that gets rid of the heavy, fat laden mayo and has a fresh, modern taste.  The first is from my Italian cooking classes, courtesy of the Formicas.  It is so much easier and could be made the day before the cookout giving you more time to relax.

Italian Potato Salad
2 lbs. new or red potatoes, skin on
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp. dry
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3/4 cup chopped red onion, optional
Scrub potatoes and cook in boiling water till easily pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes.  Drain and cut potatoes into bite sized pieces.  Toss with other ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate several hours.

I really like this next recipe, especially when new produce starts showing up at the farmer's markets.  I also like that it adds another vegetable.

Green Bean and New Potato Salad
2 lbs. new potatoes, halved or quartered
1 tsp. salt
2 quarts water
2 lbs. fresh, trimmed green beans
Bring water and salt to a boil.  Cook potatoes 18 to 20 minutes until tender.  Scoop out potatoes with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl.  Add green beans to boiling water and cook 6 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain and plunge beans into ice water to stop cooking process.  Drain and add to potatoes.  Pour rosemary vinegrette over mixture and toss to coat.  Chill several hours before serving.
Rosemary Vinegrette
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar ( I used dark balsamic vinegar as I couldn't find white)
1/4 cup honey
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 of a medium red onion
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Process all ingredients in a blender or processor until smooth.

I hope you have a safe and happy Memorial Day with your friends and family.  Try a few of these recipes instead of the same old, same old and impress everyone. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

More Chillin' and Grillin'

Whenever my husband is around on the weekends, I put him to work with the grill or smoker.  I don't get along with either one and consider those to be a man's job.  Men love cooking outside over a fire so make good use of that knowledge.  Remember that the side dishes and even dessert can be done outside so you girls can be left with little to do except clean up.  Add bartender to the list and you can put your feet up, sip a martini and read a book till dinner's done.

Father's Day is just around the corner and a Big Green Egg could be the best gift ever.  Big Green Egg is a brand of smokers and yes, they are egg shaped and green.  My husband didn't know he wanted one when he got his but now he loves using it.  Barry thinks it is easy to use (I can never get the temp right but why should I?  That's a man's job.).  Everything we put on it tastes just delicious.  I don't know a thing about other brands of smokers but I highly recommend this one.

Just this weekend, Barry smoked extra thick pork chops.  They were seasoned only with Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning.  Pork and Cavender's were made for each other.  If you don't have Cavender's in your cabinet right now, get some fast.

My daughter actually ended up tending the eggplant on the grill for her father.  She announced that she plans to do alot of cooking this summer.  You Go Girl!!  We peeled the eggplant and sliced it in 1 inch thick slices, placed it in a large bowl and drizzed it with olive oil.  A dusting of pepper and salt, a quick toss so every piece was coated and they were off to the grill for about 15 minutes till lightly browned on each side and softened.  Delicious.

Try grilling corn sometime, then butter each ear, give it a drizzle of fresh lime juice and a dusting of chili powder.  Top with some shredded Monteray Jack cheese and serve after the cheese melts.  Summer meals just can't get any better than this - smoked meats and fresh produce. 

Give these recipes a try this Memorial Day weekend.  I'll bet you get rave reviews. 


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Words of Encouragement

I ran into an old friend the other day who mentioned that she reads my blogs once in awhile.  She also told me that she and another friend had been discussing my blog but agreed it was too hard to do everything I write about here.  I knew then that my next post needed to address this issue:  doing every thing right and making lots of  lifestyle changes instantly.

The point of my blog is to encourage others to adopt healthier habits, eat better and exercise.  It is not about being perfect and doing it right all the time.  I hope you can see from my posts that we don't always get it right, we don't exercise all the time or eat lean meat, whole grains and 5 servings of vegetables every day.  Indeed, my husband the cardiologist, has been off his exercise program for weeks due to a back problem followed by a toothache.  I have been eating way too many sweets lately but my daughter who swims 5 days a week needs to gain weight. 

I hope that by sharing some of my simple recipes I can encourage others to cook more rather than to rely on fast food.  I hope they will eat more fruits and vegetables and teach their children to like them too.  I hope that others will see the benefits of regular exercise and setting a good example for their kids.  But you don't have to do these things over night or even in a month.  Please don't be discouraged or give up.  Make one change at a time, like walking with a friend twice a week or giving up chips.  Try a new recipe once in awhile and involve the kids in cooking.  I didn't start out being a health diva, I evolved into one over time.

All that said, grilling time is here.  I always say that grilling is a man's job and so many do enjoy it.  Clean that grill up and put it to use this weekend.  I'm going to share my all time favorite marinade for chicken and a great way to grill asparagus.  This marinade just gives a great flavor to chicken.   

Chicken Marinating Sauce
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Microwave butter till melted then mix all ingredients together.  Place your favorite chicken pieces in a sealable bag or large dish and pour marinade over.  Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 to 3 hours, turning occasionally.  Grill as usual. 

Grilled Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, washed and tough stems trimmed
olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
Place asparagus in a dish, drizzle with olive oil.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste.  Toss to coat well.  Grill asparagus in a vegetable grilling tray over medium heat about 10 to 12 minutes until lightly brown and fork tender, stirring some.  When asparagus is done, return to dish and drizzle with 1 to 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, toss to coat.  Serve immediately. 

Happy grilling and eating.  Get out and enjoy the fine weather of spring.         

Monday, May 17, 2010

Party Time

Sorry not to get my Thursday post done last week.  It seems preparations for my son's surprise 16th birthday party and other duties took more time than anticipated.  May is such a busy month with graduations and the end of school parties, banquets, etc.  Parties can lead to over eating or making poor choices but you can slip in some healthier choices as I did for Cameron's party.  A fruit tray always goes over well and I usually leave out the dip.  Plain fruit is delicious all by itself if you choose it carefully for ripeness and what is in season.  You can make a fresh salsa so you can control the ingredients rather than rely on the jarred variety, which has too much salt and preservatives.  Bowls of plain nuts are great for parties and you can easily add spices to dress them up. 

One of my favorite party dips, Mexican Layered Bean Dip, has several healthy ingredients and you can cut back on the less healthy ones if you want.  I also have a recipe for chicken nuggets or strips that is quick to whip up and much better tasting than the heavily breaded store kind.  These are good for dinner or a party.  I serve a dipping sauce with them. 

Mexican Layered Bean Dip
Spread these items in a layers on a large platter.
1.  One or two cans of refried beans, depending on the number of people.
2.  2 or 3 avocados mashed with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
3.  8 oz. low fat sour cream with 1/2 cup low fat mayo and 1 package reduced sodium taco seasoning stirred together
4.  3 or 4 small tomatoes diced and drained
5.  green onions chopped
6.  1 can sliced olives
7.  Top with 1 to 2 cups grated cheddar or Mexican cheese
Serve with chips.  

Chicken Strips or Nuggets
1 lb. chicken strips or nuggets
Olive oil
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. parsley
Put chicken in a bowl and add olive oil to coat well.  Mix last three ingredients in a shallow dish.  Add chicken to bread crumb mixture and coat well.  Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve with favorite dipping sauce. 

Give these recipes a try for your next party and lighten things up. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just Stop and Think

Yesterday, my husband picked our son up from school. They had an hour to kill before a doctor's appointment and of course, my son was hungry. So they decided to go to Fazoli's for some bread sticks. At the counter my son ordered a dozen bread sticks and proceeded to eat 9 of them. Fazoli's bread sticks are warm, tasty, white bread sticks coated just enough with a buttery, garlic spread. Delicious. But neither one stopped to think whether eating 9 bread sticks or even two was a good choice for a snack. According to a Fazoli's website, each bread stick has 150 calories and 7 grams of fat. Therefore my son consumed 1350 calories and 63 grams of fat in a snack. Since my son needs about 2600 calories a day, he got more than half the calories and more than a healthy daily portion of fat in one snack!

Now I'm not too concerned about my son's splurge yesterday but I wanted to make a point here. Far too many people make just such poor choices everyday and never think about it. Then they can't imagine why they are seriously overweight and suffering from health problems. Parents also aren't teaching their children about good nutrition and making healthy choices most of the time. I know many people think I'm obsessed or weird, but good health is too precious a thing to waste. Today I'm asking you to learn to stop and think before you eat. You'll be glad you did.

My husband and children made a lovely Mother's Day dinner for me on Sunday - grilled salmon with rosemary, fresh green salad with lots of veggies and roasted fingerling potatoes. (There was also a wonderful, sinful fruit tart. See, we aren't perfect.) We found a great way to roast potatoes that I want to share because it's so easy and the results were so good.

Roasted Potatoes
2 lbs. fingerling or new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
2 or 3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
Place the potatoes in a cast iron skillet large enough for a single layer. Sprinkle with water and salt. Place skillet on stove top and cover tightly with a lid. Cook on low heat for 50 to 60 minutes. Shake the pan once in a while but do not lift lid. Toss with butter when done. We didn't have a lid for our iron skillet so we covered our skillet with heavy duty foil. Because the pan was so crowded the potatoes couldn't move when shaken, I also took the cover off and turned the potatoes once so they wouldn't burn. They were soft on the inside and somewhat crunchy on the outside, perfectly done. We'll be roasting all our potatoes this way from now on. A bit of rosemary would have been great too.

My next post will be Friday as I have to be out of town Thursday. In the meantime, start examining your eating choices.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Better Eating For Teens, Continued

Teen girls, take care of yourself so you will always be beautiful and healthy.  Be smart and do what's right and you'll feel good and look good.  It can be hard in today's world to eat better but wrecking your health is the alternative.  My husband, the cardiologist, treats people in their 30's and 40's with heart disease.  If you die of a heart attack at 40, that means you were middle aged at 20, just when your life should be full of fun and new adventures. 

Poor food choices lead to many different diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.  So, what should you be eating?  Here are some tips that will help you make better choices.

1.  Eat breakfast.  Studies show that people who eat breakfast are slimmer and perform better at work and school.  Breakfast shouldn't be all sugar.  Eat cereal high in fiber and low in sugar like multigrain cheerios or shredded wheat.  Try old fashioned oatmeal with fresh fruit on top.  Grab a banana or a piece of wheat toast with peanut butter.  Drink milk or a small glass of orange juice.

2.  Eat lunch.  Skipping meals makes you really hungry and more likely to pig out on junk food.  Skip the school lunch, nothing nutritious there, and bring your own.  Make a sandwich with lean meat, whole wheat bread, some lettuce or tomato.  Add some fruit, yogurt or veggies like cucumber slices or carrot sticks.  Try hummus on pita bread or make a salad.  Drink water, G-2, tea or milk.  Skip sweet drinks.  No, you don't need chips or cookies or neon colored jello. 

3.  Eat a snack after school.  Crackers and cheese, fruit or a homemade smoothie made with lowfat yogurt and frozen fruit are good choices.  Remember your body is still growing and needs fuel.

4.  Eat a good dinner.  You can help out by doing the cooking and helping the whole family to eat better.  You should get at least two servings of vegetables at dinner.  Eat meat that hasn't been breaded and fried like chicken nuggets.  Cut back on portion sizes - many of us eat too much.  Skip dessert after dinner.   

5.  Avoid those teen staples - fast food and pizza.  Most fast food and pizza offer nothing but opportunities to pack on pounds.  Those fries taste good but won't look good around your waist.  If you must drink soda, drink one of those small 8 oz. cans.  One can a day.

I hope this makes an impact on some of you girls.  I'd like to know that you have a long, healthy, happy life.  Eating right and exercising are key to that life.   

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Better Eating For Teen Girls

Teenage girls are at a crossroads, nutrition and exercise wise.  They are old enough to make their own choices about food and parents have less input about what they eat.  Many teen girls become more inactive at this time, giving up sports.  I see many teen girls making poor choices that lead to 1. weight gain and 2. health problems at an incredibly early age.  Lets face it, I'm not that young anymore and I've had two children, one by C-section, yet I look better in a bikini than many girls 1/4 my age.  (But not better than my daughter.)  Today's post is really aimed at teen girls and I hope some of them read this.

There is alot of pressure on girls to look a certain way, leading women to often be unhappy with their bodies and appearance.  But rather than be unhappy, do something about it and I'm not talking plastic surgery.  If you take care of yourself, not only will you have a better figure, you'll feel better and your skin and hair will look good.  Please learn right now that dieting is not the answer - eating healthy foods for life and exercising regularly is!  Here are some easy tips you should be doing right now and forever.

1.  Don't ever smoke.  I can always spot a smoker by the wrinkles on their face not to mention the smell.  If you want to look like a wrinkled old bag by the time you are 30, light up.  There's also the cancer thing too.

2.  Use sunscreen.  You may not realize how old I am because I've used sunscreen and stayed out of the sun and tanning beds all my life.  There again, if you want to look like an leather purse, bake away.  There's also the cancer thing too.

3.  Stay away from sodas, even diet drinks.  Drink water or unsweetened tea.  Sodas pack on the weight and do bad things to your health that you may not realize until it's too late.  Becoming a diabetic, for example, can lead to blindness and having a leg amputated, not to mention early death.

4.  Eat your fruit and vegetables.  Quit turning up your nose and give them a chance.  They are packed with fiber and nutrients your body needs.

5.  Stay away from processed food like store bought cookies, cakes, chips, candy, granola bars, crackers and sugary drinks.  These "foods" do nothing but pack on the pounds around your butt, thighs and waist and wreck your health.  If you read the ingredient list and have no idea what half the words mean, you shouldn't be eating it.

6.  EXERCISE!  Your body will look better!  You need to do something that makes you breathless and sweaty at least 3 times a week.  More is better.  Find something you like and do it.  Do it with your friends.  Walk, ride bikes, take up a new sport, whatever you enjoy.

Thursday, I'll give some more pointers and tips for teen girls.