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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Salmon Burgers

If you are looking for something different this weekend, try a salmon burger or a fish sandwich.  Go light on the mayo or other fatty dressings and you'll have a tasty but calorie cutting burger.  By now, my readers probably know that I love fish more than poultry or meat and I'll choose fish or seafood in a restaurant almost every time.  Except now that I had that lovely reaction to scallops, I may be limited to fish only.  We'll see.

Salmon Burger With Lemon Mayo
enough fish to make a decent, bun sized portion for each person
salt and pepper to taste
fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp. light mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
lettuce and tomato if desired
Season fish and grill or bake 7 to 10 minutes depending on thickness.  Fish should be slightly underdone.
Mix mayo, lemon juice and zest.  Spread thinly on toasted buns, top with fish, fresh basil, lettuce and tomato.

Now does dinner get any easier than that?  Catfish or tilapia also makes a yummy fish sandwich.  You can even cook it the same way.  Or season the fish with a little chili powder and a pinch of cayenne and top it with fresh salsa and lettuce.

Serve those burgers with a side of home fries or better yet, sweet potato wedges which have more nutrition.

Sweet Potato Wedges
2 to 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into long wedges
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.  Heat oven to 400.  Mix dry ingredients in a large Ziploc bag, add potatoes and shake to coat.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake 20 to 30 minutes until lightly browned.

Have a wonderful weekend and keep an eye on mother nature.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Top Four Tips For Better Dieting

We've all been getting plenty of exercise lately - running to the storm shelter.  Seems like every other day brings not April showers but severe thunderstorms capable of producing large hail and tornadoes.  By the sound of thunder and the look of the clouds, we will be running again later tonight.

But I'm not here to give weather reports.  I'm here to report on some things I've learned from the 17 Day Diet book.  If you are a regular reader, you know I've been following the 17 Day Diet plan half way.  I eat the recommended breakfast and lunch but with dinner I'm more lenient.  After all, my kids don't need to diet.  Because I love to do lists, here are the top four things I've learned.

1.  Eating protein at breakfast really does keep me full till lunch time.  I love my carbs and love cereal for breakfast and snacks but I admit that I am usually starving well before lunch.  Therefore I am eating less by having protein and haven't had the urge to rush to the kitchen and grab whatever I can stuff in my mouth.  Breakfast is usually two eggs and some fruit or sometimes a Greek yogurt parfait with fruit and a bit of granola.

2.  A salad made with dark green lettuces, raw vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, broccoli or chopped fruit, nuts, craisins AND some lean protein like canned salmon or chicken and a wee bit of dressing also keeps me full till dinner.  I now eat salad for lunch several days a week.

3.  A smoothie with lunch also helps keep me full.  I use Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin and banana or peaches, banana and buttermilk.  (See my past recipes.)  I have also added a spoonful of flax seed and lots of cinnamon.  My smoothies contain no added sugar and are only about 6 ounces.

4.  Eating more vegetables at dinner helps keep me from snacking later.  I have really tried to have larger servings of vegetables at dinner.  I have found that I am less likely to be nosing around the kitchen later.

I must add that I am not a dieter usually but I try to eat healthy, balanced meals most of the time.  However, I have liked the changes that I've made and plan to keep them up.  You should check this book out even if you don't need to loose weight.  After all, we all need to eat better.  Now I must go check the weather and get my running shoes on.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Surviving Easter Weekend With The Inlaws

Does that title sound like your weekend?  If you are about to entertain half of Memphis and a contingent from Mississippi this weekend or from other exotic places, read on for some survival tips.  As I said earlier this week, Easter is another excuse for a feast.  Right now I feel like I'm burning plenty of calories just getting everything ready from clean bedding to groceries to a clean house.  All that in addition to all the things I usually do and I'm getting tired.  I bought so many carrots that the checkout lady and the bagger kept giving me strange looks.

The first tip is that you don't have to do it all, especially if  it's your spouse's family that is coming.  Give assignments to the whole family.  Split up the cleaning chores and your house will sparkle in no time plus your mother in law will be impressed that you got your husband to vacuum.  Let someone else go to the grocery.  Get some barbecue from a local restaurant instead of doing it yourself.  Use paper plates for at least one meal.

How do you stay on your healthy diet plan during a holiday?  This is a very troublesome question but here is what I'm doing.  I've lost 6 lbs. on my part time diet and I don't want to gain it back by Monday morning.  So, serve plenty of vegetables.  I'm serving a fruit salad and a slaw that isn't made with mayo on Sat.  We are having smoked chicken as well as barbecued pork for a less fattening choice.  Then Saturday night I'm serving a minestrone soup which I'm making ahead.  It's full of vegetables and lean protein while very low in fat.  As always, keep the portions small, especially on those fattening foods.

I admit it will be hard to get any exercise other than cooking and cleaning up after every meal.  Still if the weather is nice, I'll try to coax others to take a walk or play some ping pong.  So relax and enjoy your company and remember the reason for the weekend.  Oh, did I mention that prom is Saturday night?  Did I say relax?  That's for the rest of you.

Happy Easter!      

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chocolate Bunnies Lurking In Your Future

Easter is coming and like every other holiday, it has turned into a time to feast.  Children awake to baskets of chocolate bunnies, cream filled eggs and marshmallow chickies.  Adults indulge in more grown up delights though we also check out the basket when the kids are asleep.  To keep the sugar and calories down a bit, fill your children's basket with items like bubbles, books, movies or small toys like matchbox cars.  If you still do a basket for your teens, give gift cards to their favorite places to eat, the mall or movie passes.  Gas cards would be really appreciated now.

My house will be filled with relatives this Easter and I will need to feed them.  The key as usual is to try to be moderate.  I've been back and forth over what to feed everyone, desiring to have some luscious, fattening foods while struggling with my health oriented conscience.  There will be 16 or more people here on Saturday and I'm hoping we can have a barbecue and the weather will cooperate.  Watching the weather report doesn't give me much hope though.

So my menu for the weekend keeps changing but for Easter Sunday we will have ham with Jezebel sauce, deviled eggs, fresh asparagus, and caramelized carrots.  We are actually going to have two desserts - coconut cream pie and lemon meringue.  Saturday, we will have smoked chicken or pork barbecue sandwiches, slaw, fruit salad and macaroni and cheese.  I'm going to serve lemon cupcakes, I think.  Here is the recipe for Jezebel sauce for those who've never had it.  It is a great accompaniment to ham.

Jezebel Sauce
12 oz. pineapple preserves
12 oz. apricot preserves
3 Tbsp. dry mustard
6 Tbsp. horseradish
Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate.  Serve with ham or spread over cream cheese for an appetizer.  Keeps several days.

I am also struggling with another back injury, this time muscular, which does seem to be healing pretty fast.  It has prevented me from exercising since last Thursday and I can only ease back into it now.  Exercising has always been one of my strategies for coping with extra calorie consumption.  If it rains all week like Mr. Vaughn is predicting, I may have to walk the mall.  As usual, I am trying to watch my calorie consumption this week and keep it low.

Check back Thursday to see how the Easter prep is going.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where Does Your Food Come From?

I hope everyone tuned in to see Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Tuesday night.  If not, then try to watch it online by going to  The first episode really brought home the lesson that it is important to know where your food comes from and how it is made.  We trust the USDA to insure that we have a healthy food supply but a government agency can only do so much.  Last year, Jamie showed us how some chicken nuggets are made which was pretty bad.  If you watch Tuesday's episode, you may never eat hamburger again.  Apparently, the USDA allows the beef industry to use parts of the cow normally reserved for dog food to be cleaned with AMMONIA, ground up and mixed in with ground meat.  Your favorite restaurant or your child's school may be serving this meat!

This makes the case for buying locally and knowing where your food came from and how it was produced.    For instance, did you know that the FDA allows 20% of canned fruit to be moldy?  Or that your food can contain rodent droppings or maggots, all allowable by the FDA?  No, these things won't kill you but it would be nice to know exactly what you are eating.  And what about all those additives that no one but a scientist knows what they are?

Yes, my family eats canned, packaged and frozen foods.  I don't raise my own chickens and I have a black thumb when it comes to growing vegetables.  I do try to buy whole fruits and vegetables and whole pieces meat to cook myself rather than relying on processed foods.  I think my family is healthier because of it too.  I just don't think I can stress enough that someone in the family needs to cook most of the time for better health!

Speaking of health, don't forget to come out this weekend to the HMG Health and Fitness Expo at the convocation center.  There are plenty of free screenings and information plus cooking demonstrations all day Saturday.  There are free physicals for student athletes on Sunday.  I will be cooking at 4 p.m. on Saturday so come by and sample my recipes.  Hope to see you there!  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eat Your Veggies

I had a conversation with a friend this morning about how hard it is to eat enough vegetables every day.  That is why I promote just trying to get in three servings a day to start with, not the 5 to 7 promoted by the government's plan.  I agree that it is easier to eat meat and easy carbs like potatoes, rice or pasta.  As a society, we've gotten away from eating so many fruits and vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts or beets.  Since the canned or frozen varieties are often tasteless, we've forgotten how good these vegetables can be when well prepared.

If you are ambitious and have a green thumb, grow your own vegetables and experiment with something new.  Getting your kids involved in the garden can also tempt them to try what they grew.  Those of us with shady yards will go to the farmer's market or grocery.  Try adding vegetables to pasta or rice for a new twist.

The typical cookbook has few every day recipes for vegetables.  They are usually filled with recipes we'd use only on holidays or too many potato and rice dishes.  I usually stick to steamed or stir fried vegetables.  (I use olive oil to stir fry all vegetables.)  A nice green salad with plenty of raw veggies is a great way to get two or three servings of vegetables in.

Easter is just around the corner so I thought I'd share one of my easy carrot recipes.  It's a nice spring dish and goes well with ham but it is quick enough to prepare any night.  You can also adjust the number of servings by adding more carrots.

Pepper Jelly Glazed Carrots
1 2lb. package of baby carrots
1 can chicken broth
2 Tbsp. butter
1 10 oz. jar red pepper jelly
Bring broth to a boil over medium high heat in a large pot.  Add carrots and cook, 6 to 8 minutes or until carrots are just tender.  Drain broth, saving 1/4 cup.  Return carrots and broth to pan, add butter and jelly.  Cook and stir till mixture is thickened and carrots are glazed.  (I seldom use the whole jar of jelly.)

I challenge you to go out this week and try a new recipe or a vegetable you've never eaten.  You could even try a vegetarian dish if you are feeling brave.  Don't forget that Jamie Oliver is back on TV tonight.

Note:  I have been updating my recipe index so you can find those recipes you want to try!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

He's Back!

If you are needing some inspiration, be sure to tune into chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution starting April 12, 7 p.m. on ABC.  Jamie Oliver has dedicated himself to teaching people how easy it is to cook and eat better, healthier foods.  He loves to point out that we are killing ourselves with our poor diet choices and sedentary lifestyles.  His main focus on these shows is to go into the school system to try to change school menus.

I have long been appalled at what school cafeterias serve, all under Federal guidelines to meet nutritional standards!  That means as part of a "healthy" lunch, your childrens' school can serve desserts, french fries and processed meats.  That is why my kids have almost always taken their lunch.  With the current Federal standards and the way schools interpret them, it's no wonder we have an obesity epidemic.

Jamie Oliver shows just what makes up some of the popular foods we eat such as chicken nuggets.  You probably won't want to eat another chicken nugget if you see what's in them.  American kids have abysmal eating habits and parents are partly to blame.  The food industry with the millions it spends on junk food and advertising aimed at children is also to blame.  But parents can raise healthy eaters by offering fresh fruits and vegetables and cooking at home.

The exception is poor people.  They often don't have access to stores that carry decent produce, if any, and the price of junk food is often cheap compared to healthier foods.  This is something that has to change in our country if we want to control health costs.  Everyone wants to cut reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals and hold them accountable for rising costs.  However, just as much emphasis needs to be placed on individuals to be responsible for their own health.  If you are 5' tall and weigh 300 pounds, you are going to have joint pain and shortness of breath as well as a host of other problems.  Don't expect your doctor to have a cure if you can't control your weight.

So tune in and watch Jamie Oliver.  It just might be the push your family needs to do better.  In the meantime, check out the HMG Health and Fitness Expo on April 16 and 17.  I'll be cooking at 4 p.m. on Saturday.    

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are Church Goers Heavier?

Did you see in the news recently that a new study finds that regular church goers tend to put on more weight in middle age than non church goers?  The study also points out that the researchers are not sure why this would be.  The only theory mentioned in the article is that perhaps because marriage is valued in churches and married people have a tendency to gain more weight than singles, then you would see heavier church members.

I have another theory.  How many bible studies, church suppers or Sunday school classes have you attended recently?  I'll bet there were donuts, coffee cake or other unhealthy treats at those classes, not to mention an array of fatty foods at any church supper.  For some reason, if there is a gathering, we feel obligated to bring food and provide refreshments even if the gathering is for a short period.  It has always bothered me to provide snacks for kids' ball games and Sunday school classes.  The snacks most parents  bring are high in sugar and fat and have not a shred of nutritional value.  Plus I see no need to feed kids when they have had an opportunity to have breakfast and they will be going to lunch soon after the game or Sunday school class.  There is no need to provide cake at the weekly bible study group either.  These practices just teach unhealthy eating habits and cause weight gain.  It is so easy to say to oneself, "I'll just have a small slice of that cake, it's not much." and never thinking twice about the hamburger and fries at lunch, the mocha latte you get everyday on the way to work and the weekend barbeque where you fill your plate twice.

It is so easy and fast to pack on the pounds but sooooooo hard to get rid of them.  Try to focus on avoiding those snacks you know you don't need.  Yesterday I was at a college open house with my son.  There was a plate of lovely cookies beautifully iced and decorated with the school's initial.  I wanted one badly but I walked right past that plate and sat down.  Having a good breakfast that morning helped.  At lunch at the school, I bypassed the pizza and had a salad with black beans, carrots, tomatoes and chopped egg and just a drizzle of dressing.

Don't get me wrong - I do believe in snacks that are healthy.  I believe eating a snack in the morning and in the afternoon helps keep your energy level up and from eating like a hog at mealtimes.  Lately I've been eating alot of citrus fruits, yogurt and cottage cheese for snacks.  I've even eaten a handful of grape tomatoes or carrot sticks.  You can do it and you will be amazed at how good you feel.  No, it won't get rid of cravings in the short term but gradually you will feel cravings for junk alot less.

So think before you eat and pray.  I hope you are taking advantage of the spring weather to get outside for fresh air and exercise.

I just want to mention that I will be cooking at the  HMG Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday, April 16 at 4 p.m.  Come by and get a sample of one of my favorite fast family meals.