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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comfort Food And Crazy Diets

It really worries me when I hear about another crazy diet plan that people actually try.  I know I've been harping on this subject a bit but all you really need to do is eat sensibly.  That's what the cardiologist's family does.  We really don't deprive ourselves of food unless it's junk food or sweets and we even eat that occasionally.  You need protein or meat, fruits and vegetables and some carbs every day.  There is no need to eat strange things that you will give up on soon anyway without achieving any weight loss.

I'm going to publish our actual dinner menus for a couple of weeks so you can see exactly what we eat.  For breakfast we eat cereal, oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, biscuits or other treats.  The sweet breakfasts come about twice a week.  Lunch for me is a sandwich, fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese or something leftover from dinner.  The kids eat sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, pretzels or goldfish, applesauce or maybe cottage cheese.   I have no idea what Barry sneaks in for lunch but I hear the doctors' dining area has cookies every day.

Now that he can drive, Cameron frequently stops at a fast food place after school with friends or goes for a coffee drink with his girlfriend.  He'll have to figure that out on his own.  Grace still eats pretty decent snacks like cheese and crackers, nuts, fruit, bagels, etc.  She really needs alot of calories as she swims every day.  I try to limit my snacks to fruit but I seldom do without a small serving of peanuts.  (I have a strong peanut addiction and not just any peanut will do.  I'm very snobby about peanut brands.)

Here is this week's dinner menu for the cardiologist's household.
Monday - Cheesy Vegetable Soup with Sourdough Bread
Tuesday - Parmesan Catfish, Couscous with Vegetables, Sourdough Bread
Wednesday - Poorboy Casserole, Sauteed Apples
Thursday - Vegetable Beef Soup
Friday - We will eat out.
Saturday - Sloppy Joes with Cilantro Slaw, Sauteed Broccoli with Breadcrumbs
Sunday - We are having a Greek meal; Pastitsio and a Greek salad.

The Poorboy casserole is ground turkey cooked with tomato paste, celery, onions, bell pepper, Lima beans and pork and beans, topped with homemade biscuits and baked.  When my mother made this dish, it was a good day.  Sundays are family day and we have a wonderful dinner with Aunt Pat joining us.  We may have a dessert and often we have martinis.  So far this week, the only dessert we've had has been one Lindor truffle last night.  So you see, we eat very well, as healthy as I can make it and no one can complain.

I wanted to share a new dish I came up with.  Maybe you'd like to make it this weekend.  It is great comfort food and perfect for cold nights.

Hamburgers with Onions and Mushroom Gravy.
4 beef or turkey patties
1 can Golden Mushroom soup
1 onion sliced thin
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 onion rolls
Spray a nonstick pan lightly with baking spray and cook patties over medium high heat until browned and cooked through.  Drain any grease and return meat to pan.  Add soup and one can of water, stirring until mixed.  Let meat simmer, covered, while you saute the onions in a separate skillet with the olive oil over medium high heat.  Cook onion until nicely browned.  Toast onion rolls, divide onions among rolls and top with a pattie.  Spoon soup over the top.  Yummy!

As you can see, this is easy to adjust for more or less people.  Meanwhile, get out this weekend and enjoy the warmer temperatures!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Passing Of A Pioneer

A true pioneer passed away this week - Jack Lalanne.  He was 96 years young and in far better shape even than some teens.  For those of you who don't know who he was, Jack Lalanne began his long career in 1936, promoting health, fitness and exercise.  He designed several pieces of workout equipment still used today and his TV show ran for 20 years.  He was still rigorously working out everyday until his recent death from pneumonia.  As a child, I can remember my mother exercising with Jack and I'm sure I joined in sometimes.  Look for him on YouTube the next time you need some inspiration to exercise or eat better.  Jack and his wife of some 50 years were out living life, not wasting away in a nursing home.  Think about it.  You can do it too.

I have been back on track lately with exercise and eating better.  I'll be the first to admit it's not easy but as a healthy lifestyle becomes habit and you notice you look and feel better, it won't be such a chore.   I find it just as hard as you do to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  That's why I promote eating just 3 servings for now.  If you can reach that goal, you will have made a big difference in your diet.  Try to eat just one piece of fruit each day, an apple or a banana.  Eat two vegetables at dinner and there you have it.  A serving size of fruits or veggies is 1/2 cup, one whole piece of fruit or 1 cup of leafy vegetables like spinach.  If you eat a nice large salad with plenty of tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, bell pepper and spinach in it, you probably have 3 servings right there.  Just remember to go easy on the dressing.  And remember, french fries do not count.

Here is a recipe for a really simple soup your family will enjoy on these cold winter nights and they won't even mind getting in a serving of vegetables.  My sister refers to this a rotel dip with veggies.

Cheesy Vegetable Soup
Makes 4 large servings
4 cups of low sodium chicken broth    
1 can of Rotel, hot as you like it
2 lbs. frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups of Velveeta cheese or 1/2
1 cup of your favorite pasta, preferably whole wheat
Bring the broth and rotel to a boil in a large pot.  Add frozen vegetables and let simmer 15 minutes.  Add pasta and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until al dente.  Add cheese and stir till melted.  Serve with a nice crusty whole grain bread or some sourdough.  Add a spinach salad and you've really packed in some vegetables for the day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best Way To Have A Slim Figure

Since everyone is still motivated by their New Year's resolutions, and since losing weight or getting in shape is a popular resolution, I chose this topic today.  There are so many diet plans out there and some are good and will teach you a healthy lifestyle.  But there are far too many that are bogus and just money makers for someone at your expense.  The radio has been filled for ads for Look Slim 90 for example.  The ads promise remarkable results just by putting a few drops under your tongue at night; no "yucky diet food or exercise."  I have to wonder who could fall for that ad.

You didn't get out of shape or overweight in one day or even in one month so stop looking for a quick, easy fix.  The solution isn't easy but once you acquire new habits, it will get easier.  People who are of a normal weight work at it.  They exercise regularly, doing something they enjoy.  They are active in other ways such as walking their dog, playing with their children or hiking on the weekend.  They don't just sit on their butt 24/7, they get out and participate in life.  The TV or computer isn't their best friend.

Slim people also eat differently.  They don't overeat; they stop when they are full.  They understand the difference between snacks and treats.  Most importantly, they eat balanced meals of lean protein, fruits and vegetables.  Real food, cooked at home, not fast food or highly processed foods washed down with sodas.

Now that I have lectured you, I'll confess that I struggle with these same issues.  Since the 
holidays, I've found it difficult to go back to a normal diet and not to have desserts and calorie
laden drinks on the weekends.  At this time of year, it can be difficult to get in exercise.  I'm only 
riding my horse about once a week due to the weather and I've missed dance class for one
reason or another.  Then the inevitable happened.  I noticed that I've put on 5 pounds over 
two weeks.  That has motivated me to get off my butt and get moving again.  Plus, I'm really 
trying to make healthy food choices and to ignore that chocolate milkshake that keeps calling
I hope you find the motivation to keep your New Year's resolutions.  Do it for yourself and do it for those you love.  Stay healthy!

I must thank my son for helping me to fix the problem with this post that prevented me from publishing it last week.  


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can Fast Food Have A Good Idea?

I guess once in awhile everyone can have a good idea so fast food restaurants are no exception.  There have been some improvements to fast food menus such as fruit and milk options on kids meals but not enough for me to recommend eating there regularly.  However, I was watching TV the other night and saw a McDonald's ad that prompted me to imitate their product with great success.

Mickey D's now offers oatmeal with a fruit topping for breakfast.  Now I'm not sure if they are serving instant oatmeal or the old fashioned kind or how much added sugar the fruit topping has but the idea inspired me.  I made oatmeal so good that my son who doesn't care much for oatmeal even said it wasn't bad.  Try this for a healthy start to your day.

Oatmeal with Fruit Topping
2 cups regular old fashioned oats
3 1/2 cups water
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
small apple chopped
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup mixed dried fruit such as cherries, craisins and raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup boiling water
Bring water and salt to a boil.  Add oatmeal and cook, stirring frequently till most of the water is absorbed.  Add cream and brown sugar.  Add dried fruit to cup of boiling water and let sit while oatmeal cooks.  Drain and add chopped apple, walnuts and cinnamon.  Spoon topping over oatmeal and serve.

I must also confess that every time I try to do something fancy with my blog, I screw up and I can't always find someone to help me.  That's what happened again with last Thursday's post.  I'll get my son to help me fix it and post it this week.

In the meantime, stock up on supplies.  The geese have been flying over in waves today so that must mean that Thursday the weather will get ugly as predicted.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Food Processors - Worth It Or Not?

Last week I promised a review of my new food processor as I had never wanted one but recently changed my mind.  Is it worth the storage space and cost?  For me, the answer is definitely yes.  I have used it twice since my last post and both times it made cooking so much easier.  I have used it to shred hard cheese and to slice several potatoes.  It was like magic and worked so quickly and quietly that I couldn't believe it.  One thing I hate to do is to slice potatoes thinly but that is now a thing of the past.  It was also very easy to clean up as all parts can go in the dish washer or you can hand wash it.  All parts have been designed so that there are no hard to clean areas.  My only problem is where to store it and that question has not been satisfactorily solved.  I also think it works much better than the old blender I have but maybe a better quality blender would perform better than mine.  It was my frustration with the limitations of the blender that finally led to me wanting a food processor.

My research had convinced me that a food processor would be more versatile too.  I decided that a 9 cup Cuisinart would be a good size and work the best.  Tomorrow I plan to make a quick bread in it that I have been unable to make because it involves finely chopping a whole orange, peel and all.  I also plan to test it's bread dough making ability soon and I can't wait to make fresh salsa.  The next time I'm making cranberry salad or Oreo truffles, I won't dread it because the food processor will do a better job than the blender.

If you have been thinking about a food processor, my advice is to think how often you perform tasks like slicing vegetables, making breads, chopping foods or blending those chopped foods as in making salsa.  If you make things like this weekly, then the food processor will make a big difference.  If you avoid certain recipes due to the chopping or slicing involved, the processor will help. Otherwise I might put off buying one as a decent one will cost $100 to $200 plus take up a lot of room in the kitchen.  You might be better off with a blender which is smaller.

On another note, I must confess I have been struggling with a regular exercise routine lately.  The holidays and getting sick played havoc with my exercise plan and now the weather has gotten into wrecking my plans.  My dance class was canceled last night due to snow and icy conditions.  Still that doesn't mean I have given up and am just sitting around on my butt drinking hot chocolate.  I want to look good when swim suit weather arrives and you can't get in shape in just a month.  So stick to your plans and keep moving.  Have an alternative workout you can do at home if the weather gets bad.  If you have snow, get out in it and you'll get a great workout.  Plus, do something else once in awhile is really good for your exercise plan and keeps it from getting boring.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Obesity Is A Serious Matter

I have never been a fan of Sarah Palin; she is one of those politicians who is great at using words to stir up people but short on actual practical solutions to the needs of this country.  She is all flash but no substance. I was appalled to see her on TV this week, making fun of Michele Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity.  The clip was from her reality show and she was saying something about making smores because Michele Obama doesn't want us to eat dessert.

Making fun of a serious medical condition that threatens the lives of millions doesn't strike me as sensible, caring or informed.  It is a petty attempt to make light of an opponent's agenda.  My husband and I are passionate about trying to prevent obesity and to educate others.  Few things make me so sad as to see a young person who is morbidly overweight because I realize all the health problems that person faces and the limitations on his or her life.  The hope that I can help in some way is what keeps me writing this blog.

Eating is such a huge part of our lives but we seem to know so little about how to eat or what to put in our mouth.  Humans always seek the path of least resistance so we eat what is convenient and tastes good with little thought of whether it is what we need.  I often compare the body with a car; you wouldn't put just anything in your car and expect it to run so why put just anything in your body and expect it to function properly?

With that lecture out of my system, I will share the first new recipe of 2011.  As usual, it meets all the qualifications of easy, fast, nutritious and great tasting.  My family raved about it, plus I think the sauce would work just as well with chicken.  Take a few extra minutes to grate some fresh ginger for this dish as it makes a world of difference and smells wonderful too.

Salmon with Pineapple Ginger Glaze
4 salmon fillets
1/2 cup pineapple preserves
1 1/2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 425.  Place fillets in a 9 x 13 baking dish coated with baking spray.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over fillets.  Bake for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  You can use bottled garlic and ginger.

Pair this with a salad or green vegetable and you will have a lovely, healthy dinner.  This dish is nice enough to serve to company too.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, New Gadgets

I have never been much of a gadget person.  Men love gadgets and have to have every imaginable tool to do the tiniest thing.  I've always just made do with a few basic tools though sometimes I have wished some of my tasks were easier.

I do appreciate sharp knives and was terribly disappointed to learn that the man who sharpened my knives was no longer in business.  My knives got duller and duller as the holidays neared but I have never been satisfied with any sharpener I've tried.  I told Barry I really wanted a good knife sharpener for Christmas but he went one better.  He gave me a set of Wusthof Knives and a sharpener.

I believe these knives are a definite step up from my old Chicago cutlery.  Not only are my new knives incredibly sharp, they make any task so easy and enjoyable.  When shopping for knives, get the best you can afford and take good care of them.  It is important to hold different knives and see which feel better, more balanced and appropriately sized for your hand.  Wash knives by hand; never put them in the dishwasher as that can dull them, get rust on them, or injure some unsuspecting person unloading the dishwasher.  Store your knives properly, don't just throw them in a drawer.  Some people like the knife blocks but others claim blocks can harbor germs.  I intend to look for a magnetic bar to hold mine.

Three basic knives do the job for me.  A paring knife for cutting or peeling fruits and vegetables or any other light task is your main work horse.  A bread knife with a serrated edge will cut breads, cakes or even roasts with that crusty surface.  A cook's knife is a nice large knife for chopping, mincing and cutting up large vegetables, fruits and meats.  A new knife can make all the difference in making cooking a more pleasant task.

My husband also gave me my first food processor.  Now I know some of you may be laughing at me right now but I never wanted one until recently.  I guess I finally got tired of doing certain things the hard way.  However, I have not yet used my food processor so my judgement on whether it is truly worth the storage space will have to wait.  I was going to use it yesterday but it was more complicated than I'd anticipated so I will have to watch the DVD first.  Since I was already cooking, I didn't have time to stop and watch a 50 minute DVD.  I am very excited about using it though as I think it will be easier to make salsas and cut up large quantities of fruits and vegetables.  I may even start making bread.  So I hope to have a review on food processors soon.