Blog has moved, searching new blog...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Website

Just a quick reminder, my new website is up and running at  There should be a link from this site to that one but it is not working yet.  So I have not abandoned my readers, I am just at a new place.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  The recipe index on the side is useful but not all the tabs at the top are ready.  Still a bit under construction.  See you there!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Challenge: Final Shopping Trip

Got back from the grocery and tucked everything away, now it's time to report on how I did.  Before I give a total for the week, I'd like to give a list of what I purchased and it's price.

OJ                                    $2.89
Buttermilk                         $1.65
Milk                                  $13.77
Turkey sausage                 $5.78
Organic Whole chicken    $6.81
Chicken legs, 8 pack         $2.86
Yogurt                               $2.93
String Cheese                     $3.59
Diced Ham                        $2.50
Deli Chicken                      $3.59
Oranges                              $3.99
Celery                                  $1.39
Cabbage                            $1.47
Canned salmon                  $3.00
Onions                               $.78
Oroweat bread                   $7.58
Bananas                             $2.25
Grapes                                $4.16
Eggs, 2 dozen                     $3.76
Salad                                  $3.49
Fresh mushrooms               $1.89
Yellow squash, 1.55 lbs.    $1.53
Bell pepper                         $.79
Sweet potatoes, 2                $1.18
Fresh corn                           $1.67
Mini carrots                        $1.00
5 lb. bag of potatoes           $2.99
Boarshead deli meat, 1/2 lb. $4.56
Bottled Water                      $1.88

I spent a total of $100.52, tax included.  Of course this was possible because I didn't buy sodas, chips, cookies, etc.  My kids do eat a sandwich, yogurt, salads, fruit and occasionally pretzels or Goldfish for lunch.  The only difference this week was that they took water instead of the G-2 they usually drink.  I also feed my family a lot of eggs, oatmeal and smoothies for breakfast.  I also make French toast and pancakes from scratch.  Cereal, granola bars, donuts, Pop Tarts, etc. are more expensive per serving and much less nutritious.  A large container of oatmeal is on sale at Krogers this week for $3.00 and makes 30 servings.  You can also use the oatmeal in meatloaf or make the baked oatmeal recipe I shared awhile back.  I'd like to point out that there are plenty of oranges, buttermilk, cheese, celery, bread, eggs, potatoes and carrots left for next week as well.  I may try this challenge again later to see if I can do it with a different menu.

Anyway, give it a try and see how low you can go.  If you do, please let all of my readers know in the comment section.  

Challenge, Day Four Through Seven

I must say this challenge has been fun.  I am going to the store later today for the food I need for the rest of the week.  Since I bought all my meat and most of my milk Tuesday, I just need a few vegetables and things.  Here is the menu for the rest of the week.

Thursday          Turkey sausage roasted with potatoes, bell pepper, onion and a touch of Tony's
Friday                leftovers; I'm a firm believer in not wasting leftovers!
Saturday             Salmon loaf with celery sauce and vegetables to be determined
Sunday               Roasted chicken with vegetables to be determined

I will see what vegetables are the best price today to complete Saturday and Sunday's meals.  Sunday is always our big family dinner and my sister brings a dish, maybe homemade bread, a vegetable or dessert. I always have flour on hand so we will have pancakes for breakfast Saturday and maybe homemade biscuits Sunday (my daughter's specialty).  I may get a bit of deli ham or turkey for sandwiches as the chicken salad will be gone by tomorrow but it was enough for 6 lunches!  I will also pick up some salad greens as I eat several salads a week for lunch.  I always watch for a sale and I can usually get three lunches from one bag because I add fruit, nuts, egg, cheese, carrots and other fiber filled, nutritious goodies.

Using leftovers is a great way to stretch your budget and not waste your food dollars.  We often have leftover night and everyone gets to pick a dish.  Sometimes we eat leftovers for lunch.  We have tuna casserole, bean soup and chicken stir fry so far.  I can always add a fruit salad or vegetable to round out these meals.  It also means no one has to cook, a hugh bonus!

When I shopped Tuesday, I kept a running total of the food I was buying so I could decide what I could afford.  I have $36.46 left to spend.  I think I can come very close to that magical number.  I'll admit I was lucky that I had plenty of things on hand that we use often like coffee, rice, flour, eggs, pasta and beans.  It does pay to buy staples on sale so you can keep your pantry well stocked.  That way, you don't spend extra money when you need or want to make something.  One thing I've learned from my couponing efforts is to try generic or store brands.  You don't always have to buy the national brands to get the quality you want.  For this challenge for instance, I bought Kroger's orange juice which was cheaper.  I haven't tried it yet so we'll see if it matches our beloved Simply Orange.

I will post my final shopping results later today or tomorrow so check back!  This Saturday at 9 a.m. at Joe Mac Campbell park we will have Walk With A Doc.  Come out and kick off your summer exercise program and ask a cardiologist any questions you want.  We'll meet at the playground and walk a mile.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Check On The Challenge

To see how much money I've spent so far, go to, look under blog roll for the cardiologist's wife.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Challenge: Day One Through three

I need to explain other ways I plan to meet this challenge.  (You will need to read last Thursday's post to find out what this challenge is about.)  One thing I have preached about is how we all waste food and that obviously affects our pocket book (see posts on 1/31/2012 and 2/2/2012).  I certainly can't say I'm perfect and that I never throw out food.  So I have been digging around in my cabinets, freezer and refrigerator for "forgotten" food.  We all have canned goods we bought on sale, extra meat we froze or 1/2 a bag of beans leftover from a recipe we once tried.  Once I had an inventory, I started to plan meals for this week.  So here is the menu through Wednesday.  (I shop twice a week, usually on Mondays and Thursdays.  However, due to a class I took on Monday, I will be shopping later today.)

Monday     tuna casserole and sugar snap peas
Tuesday     bean soup, maybe cornbread
Wednesday     chicken or ham stir fry

Obviously, most of us have food on hand and don't start out with bare cabinets like old Mother Hubbard before we go to the store.  I will not count food I have on hand in the $100.  I will only count the food I have to buy this week.  That will be plenty, believe me.  I will need at least three gallons of milk which will cost about $11.50.  Milk is so expensive but we will not give up a big part of our nutrition for the week.

So, of the above menu, I found a can of tuna, 1/2 bag of elbow macaroni, sugar snap peas and 2 partial bags of dried beans which would be enough to make the soup.  For the chicken or ham (depends on better price!) stir fry I only have onion, carrots, rice, eggs and obviously, oil.  I had eggs, cereal, milk, OJ, apples, a bit of ham and cheese and some salad greens for the breakfasts and lunches we've had so far.  I did buy a 12 pack of water at Wal Mart for the kid's lunches and Oroweat bread is on sale at Kroger two for the price of one!  So far I have spent $6.12.  I said we might have cornbread with the bean soup, depending on how much money I spend today at the grocery as I might leave out the buttermilk.  You can add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to milk as a substitute for buttermilk and I may try that instead of buying buttermilk.  However, I'm picky about my cornbread so I'm not sure I feel like experimenting.

I'm thinking that Friday will be our leftover night.  We already enough have tuna casserole leftover for one serving.  Not sure about the rest of the week yet but I'm sure an egg frittata or shakshuka will appear as eggs are so nutritious but cheap.  We all make jokes about eating rice and beans but when it comes down to it, brown rice and beans are soooo good for us!  We'd be better off eating more of those, hence the bean soup tonight.  Plus, I happen to like beans in most any dish.  I'd also like to mention that my kids like tuna casserole, giving it a 7 out of 10 rating.  Just didn't want you to think that I'm serving crap my family doesn't like just to get by this week.  I'm only cooking food that my family at least eats willingly but I'm not about to say every family member always loves everything I put on the table!  My son will eat the bean soup but certainly not be thrilled to see it.

Check back tomorrow as I will post the shopping bill from later today!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


A friend has extended a challenge I cannot refuse.  Can I feed a family of four for a week for $100?  I had been thinking about this very idea when my friend and I talked about this issue.  Many families are cutting their budget wherever possible and food, though necessary, is no exception.  Families are turning to fast foods or processed foods which are very cheap but nutritionally a black hole.  They feel they cannot afford "more expensive" wholesome foods.

I agree that food costs have risen tremendously and that fresh fruits and vegetables are often costly.  Though I live in a rural area, most of the crops grown are row crops like soybeans, cotton and rice.  The last few years have seen an increase in farmers' markets with locally grown produce.  However, the prices at most farmer's markets are fairly high as well.

So what are the rules of this challenge?  Starting Monday, I will feed my family breakfast, lunch and dinner for seven days and try to stay at $100.  I have a break in that my husband eats lunch at work 4 or 5 days a week but my kids take their lunch every day.  I will still serve 28 breakfasts, at least 23 lunches and 28 dinner meals.  That works out to about $1.27 a meal.  I admit this is a big challenge and I'm not sure I can do it.

My family rarely drinks soda, so that is another break in the budget.  To further save money, I will use the sales circular from Kroger to very carefully plan meals.  I have been looking through my cookbooks for recipes with few, cheap ingredients.  That means my family will probably have oatmeal, bean soup or egg frittata to eat next week.  I also plan to stretch meat to cover more than one meal.  For example I may use 1/2 a roasted chicken in a pasta dish one night and the rest of the chicken to make chicken salad for lunches.  I will buy whatever fresh vegetables or fruit is in season, or whatever canned and frozen veggies offers the best price.  I will NOT buy processed or fast foods for a meal.  Our meals will not be different from what we usually eat however.

I am not including pet food in this challenge as I have 7 animals but mostly because many families don't have pets.  I also have a couple of animals with sensitive digestive systems and I will not upset their stomachs to buy cheaper food.  Cleaning up animal barf is not part of the challenge.  I don't mind trying cheaper generic brands for my family as the quality should be the same.

So next week should be very interesting.  I love a challenge and will try my best.  Hopefully we will all learn something.  I'd like to add a quick update on my couponing efforts to save money.  January was my last "good" month.  Since then it seems like there has been a dramatic drop in the coupons I can find to use.  March was my worst month yet with only $15.25 in coupon savings.  Most of the coupons I see are for processed foods I don't use, or cleaning and toiletry items.

So check back Tuesday to see my menu and my first grocery receipt.  I will shop on Monday and Thursday as always.  Also, you may want to read my blog on this week for a very interesting look at the state of American health.  I think you'll be surprised.          

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Making Smoothies At The Health And Wellness Expo

I'm happy to report that there were no cooking accidents this weekend at the HMG Health and Wellness Expo this past weekend.  Since I was using a blender, I did have a few nightmares that something spectacular would go wrong.  After all, I did heat up the oven once at the first Expo I did with the oven manual in it!  Fortunately, there was no fire.

As always, I enjoyed "cooking" even though making smoothies hardly qualifies as more than food prep.  Just goes to show that eating healthy doesn't need to involve complicated cooking!  I made four different smoothies, three of which have been featured before on this blog.  All seemed to be well received, even the spinach smoothie.  In fact, an eight year old girl said it was her favorite!  Add a bit of protein powder and a smoothie can be a good breakfast, lunch, dinner side, dessert or snack.  Just remember to keep the added sugar to a minimum with maybe a bit of honey.  There really is plenty of sugar in the yogurt, fruit or a splash of orange juice.  I avoid smoothies at fast food restaurants or even those from the grocery as they are usually calorie and sugar laden affairs, negating any nutrition.

                                            Making the banana, peach, buttermilk smoothie.

Assembling the infamous twinkie tree.  If it doesn't grow, if you can't harvest it, or it doesn't run or swim or fly, do you really want to eat it?

I'm also going to share the final recipe I made on Saturday.  This smoothie isn't for everybody as it has approximately 600 calories.  I created this smoothie for my daughter the swimmer because she needed to gain weight.  So if you know someone who has been ill or who trains so hard that they need the extra calories, this is a great tasting smoothie.  The rest of us need to look away.

600 Calorie Smoothie
1 serving of chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast*
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1 banana
1 serving of protein powder*
1 to 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  *Depends on the kind of protein powder you buy as to how many scoops make a serving.  Also, Carnation Instant Breakfast comes in tubs or envelopes so check the package for a serving size.  You can also add 1/2 cup Greek yogurt for more protein and calories.

I make a lower calorie version of this for myself occasionally.  Blend 1 banana, 1 cup skim milk, 1 tsp. of peanut butter and 1 serving of Carnation Instant Breakfast or 1 serving of chocolate Slim Fast until smooth.  Makes a decent breakfast or lunch once in awhile, certainly better than a granola bar and a cup of coffee.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Food Intolerances, What Can I Eat?

This is probably a question that pops up immediately when someone learns they have a food intolerance.  Changing one's diet to eliminate a common food such as milk or wheat can be daunting.  Eating with the rest of the family who does not share your intolerance is frustrating.  It is hard watching my family order shrimp, scallops or lobster these days and knowing that I really shouldn't no matter how much I'd like to join them.

First, you need to decide how bad your symptoms are to you and whether you can tolerate small amounts of the food.  For example, my sister is lactose intolerant but a small scoop of ice cream on a piece of pie is ok.  A milkshake would mean an evening of misery.  If you do not have a food allergy or you have not been diagnosed with Celiac disease, it is not life threatening to eat the problem food.  You might be able to eat baked goods with eggs in them but not an omelet or to have a slice of toast once a day.  You will probably go through a period of experimentation and education as you learn more about your body and what it can tolerate.  It would be helpful to keep a food diary of what you eat and how you felt later.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to more than one food, then bless you!

You will also benefit from a trip to the bookstore or library.  There are countless books on gluten free diets, vegan diets and everything else.  Don't forget the handy web to find further information.  Next, you should start to eliminate processed foods from your diet.  Processed foods contain a whole host of bad-for- you-things anyway so this is a good thing.  However, it also means that you must be committed to preparing most of your own food so that you can control exactly what goes in it.  If you do buy any processed foods, you must be vigilant about reading the labels.

If you have a problem with gluten, your diet will be mostly fruits, vegetables and protein.  There are probably some grains you can tolerate like quinoa or oats.  You might eat yogurt and fruit for breakfast, have a nice salad for lunch, fish and a couple of vegetables for dinner.  If you are lactose intolerant, there are other milk substitutes and lactose free milk, though they can be expensive.  You can even find frozen treats that are made with coconut milk and taste just as good (I've tried them!) or you might have sorbet.

There are also many alternatives on the grocery shelves these days and even whole stores and bakeries that cater to people with food intolerances and allergies.  You can buy gluten free bread and cereals to fill that void.  Some of these foods may be found in the organic or health food section of your regular grocery store.      

Open your mind to the possibilities and don't focus on the limits.  This is an opportunity to clean up the whole family's diet by getting rid of junk and processed food they shouldn't be eating anyway.  (Just keep that one to yourself and be sneaky about it!)  Once you begin to feel better, you will not miss your old diet.

I'd like to mention that I will be preparing healthy snacks at the HMG Health and Wellness Expo on Saturday at 9:45.  Come on out and spend some time learning more about good health!  As always there will be plenty of activities for the kids, including an awesome exhibit where you can walk through a giant body and learn about the organs.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Food Allergies And Food Intolerances

It seems I have quite a few friends with food allergies, food intolerances and sensitivities these days.  I just finished an article for Midsouth Latino magazine on the subject and learned quite a bit.  To my great sorrow, I suffer from an allergy to shellfish.  I didn't develop this allergy until I was an adult and it is getting worse.  It started out with just shrimp but has progressed to scallops and now I've been warned not to eat other shellfish as well.  Of course, I love shellfish, not to mention it is worrisome that I could have an anaphylactic reaction someday.  (See my recent article on on anaphylaxis.)

Let's sum up the difference between food allergies and food intolerances.  A food allergy is an abnormal response to food triggered by the immune system.  Food intolerance is a digestive system response to the inability to digest certain foods such as dairy.  Food allergies can be life threatening but an intolerance just makes you feel miserable.  Eating even the smallest amount of the troublesome food can set off an allergic reaction but those with food intolerances can often eat certain quantities of the food before having a problem.  It is important to know the difference between the two in order to treat the problem properly.  If you have a food allergy, it is important to avoid the food all together.  You must also avoid the particular food with a food intolerance unless you are willing to put up with the symptoms.

The symptoms for a food allergy start within a few minutes to an hour of eating and include:  itching around the mouth, difficulty swallowing or breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hives, asthma, dizziness or anaphylaxis.  Symptoms for a food intolerance include nausea, stomach pain, gas or bloating, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches.  You can treat the symptoms for a food intolerance with over the counter products but with a food allergy, you may need to take an antihistamine if you accidentally eat the food or use an EpiPen and get immediate medical help if the symptoms are severe.  Always carry an EpiPen if you've previously had an anaphylactic response.

Celiac disease is a serious genetic disorder in which people are unable to eat gluten which is found in wheat and other grains.  Gluten causes an autoimmune reaction and the body produces antibodies that harm the small intestine, preventing absorption of nutrients.  Celiac disease can be life threatening if not treated.  The only treatment is to eliminate gluten from the diet.  Symptoms include: diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, chronic fatigue and malnutrition.  Others may experience some of these symptoms but not intestinal damage when they only have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.
Food allergies and food intolerances are on the rise in this country though scientists aren't exactly sure why.  In developing countries where hygiene may be poor, people die from infectious diseases but health problems such as obesity, asthma and allergies are seldom seen.  So early and more frequent exposure to bacteria may actually protect the body against certain health problems.  Also, people in developing countries eat a mostly vegetarian diet that is locally grown which may further protect them from allergies.  It may be that our high fat, high sugar, low fiber diet may be playing a role in allergies as well as diabetes and heart disease.

Food intolerances present complex issues, among them the question "What can I eat?".  It isn't always easy to eliminate a food group from your diet.  For instance, dairy and gluten are found in many products that seem harmless.  Thursday I'll offer a few suggestions that may help.      

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Leftover Ham, Continued

It's 5:30 a.m. and I have no business being up.  I'm sleepy, grumpy and dopey, that makes me three of the seven dwarfs.  Getting up because of someone else's schedule sucks.  But that doesn't help with leftover ham, does it?  At this point, I could just stand in the open refrigerator, cramming some ham in my face but that isn't very nice and doesn't feed anyone else.  Besides, my gastritis has flared up and I don't feel like eating anyway.  Now that I'm through complaining, I have a really great recipe for the rest of that leftover ham!

I saw this recipe on though I did not follow it faithfully.  I simply adapted the recipe to suit our taste.  This was super easy and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, even the cabbage.  That is what a well stocked pantry will do for you; makes it easier to cook!  I admit I don't always have cabbage on hand; I happened to have cabbage from a meal plan that got changed slightly when someone else made cabbage and brought it to dinner.  I do try to keep onions on hand and a wide variety of canned goods like beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc.  So when I decided to ditch my original menu plan for the leftover ham in favor of this recipe, I didn't have to make a special trip to the store to do it.

NOW for those of you who think, "My family would never eat cabbage!", don't skip this!  My kids have learned to like cabbage when I learned to cook it better.  Cabbage is one of those vegetables that blends very nicely in dishes, to the point that you don't realize what it is.  I promise you that if you try this and don't tell everyone what is in here, they probably won't know.  My family scarfed this right down last night and would have eaten more.  The key is letting the vegetables and ham brown nicely.  Don't be afraid to brown vegetables; it brings out the most wonderful flavor!

Ham With Corn And Cabbage
2 cups chopped ham
2 cans no salt added whole kernel corn, drained or a bag of frozen corn thawed and drained
1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 tsp. garlic powder
Heat 2 or 3 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large nonstick pan.  Add onion and cabbage and cook, stirring only occasionally so it will begin to brown.  When the cabbage mixture starts to brown a good bit, add the ham, garlic powder and corn and mix well.  Let this continue to cook about 30 minutes, stirring only to prevent burning while you read the paper, help the kids with homework, whatever.  This dish is great because it cooks itself with little help.  When it has browned well, add a dash of pepper.  No salt needed as the ham is salty enough.

If your pantry is well stocked, open a can of tropical fruit to serve with dinner.  If you are really organized, make quick rolls by combining 1 cup Bisquick, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup non fat plain yogurt or sour cream.  Grease a 6 cup muffin pan and divide dough.  Bake about 12 to 14 minutes in a 425 degree oven.

It was a fine dinner.      

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What To Do With Leftover Ham

I may be weird but I love leftovers.  Having leftovers in the fridge means anything from a nice lunch to a dinner I don't have to cook, to a dinner partly fixed.  We had the most lovely Easter dinner Sunday evening and of course, leftover ham.

The weather has been glorious lately and we have been eating outside on our deck as often as possible.  Our deck overlooks a field that slopes down to a small lake.  We can usually see my neighbor's horses, geese, the occasional ducks and hear plenty of frogs.  In the early evening as the sun goes down, the water just sparkles.  We linger a long time as no one wants to leave such a peaceful scene.

I have several recipes to share this week, including the carrot recipe I tried Sunday.  It was incredibly simple but everyone agreed it was excellent.  My sister provided the ham, which she served as is, no other additions.  I also stir fried some sugar snap peas and made coconut cupcakes with pineapple filling.  Pat also made sweet potato cornbread which is the most delectable concoction.  I wish my Dad was around to have a piece.  He was such a cornbread connoisseur and I wonder what he would have thought about adding things like broccoli and sweet potatoes to cornbread.  I think he would approve.

My sister left me with enough ham for two meals so I was excited.  Yesterday I poured over recipes until I found one that sounded good.  It was so good that my daughter asked if she could have the leftovers in a thermos for her lunch at school today.  It was not complicated and the additions of lemon juice and zest gave a twist to the flavor.  If you've got some leftover ham, try this.

Pasta and Ham in a Lemon Cream Sauce
2 cups chopped ham
2 cups frozen green peas
12 oz. bow tie or your favorite pasta
zest of one lemon, preferably Meyer
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup cream or half and half
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 shallots chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chicken broth
Bring water to a boil in a large pot for the pasta.  Cook pasta as you start the sauce.  Drain and set aside.  Sauté shallots in a large skillet in melted butter over medium heat, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken broth and let simmer a few minutes.  Add cream and milk, ham, cayenne pepper and peas.  Return to a simmer until peas are heated through.  Stir in cooked pasta and parmesan cheese, then the lemon zest and juice.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.  (Remember the ham is pretty salty.)  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

If you would like the carrot recipe, check out on Wednesday.  I will publish it there this week.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wow!  There has been so much health information released lately and I'm trying to absorb it all and pass it on to my readers.  I spend many hours watching the news and reading to keep updated on the latest because I realize that many of you can't devote that much time.  I then try to break it down into manageable, understandable pieces.   Being educated is one key to staying healthy.

That said, I have to share an unusual experience with you.  I will try almost anything though I'm not quite up to bear Grylls' standards.  While recruiting neighbors for a neighborhood cleanup project, I had the chance to get to know one of my neighbors better.  The area I live in is very wooded and houses are far apart, making neighborly interaction a bit difficult.  In our conversation, one topic led to another and after hearing that I write health related articles, he asked if I'd ever eaten raccoon.  Though my father hunted and I've attended my share of wild life dinner banquets with him many years ago, I couldn't say I had.  Being a very friendly man, he promised to bring me some the next time he and his wife cooked one.

Yesterday was the big day.  My neighbor brought me a pot of what he called goulash but I'd call pot roast.  I heated it up and tried it on my unsuspecting family.  (Cameron was gone and has yet to participate in my experiment, but shhh, don't tell him!)  Grace being fresh from swim practice and ravenous, dug in and immediately pronounced it delicious, quickly followed by Barry.  I watched them, amused.  "Do you even have a clue what you are eating?" I asked as Barry commented on the strange bone on his plate.  He looked up.  "Possum?"

"No, but you are close.  It's raccoon."  They ate on, undisturbed by this announcement.  I, however, was having a bit of difficulty.  I was somewhat surprised by my reaction since I've eaten other strange meats like squirrel, rattlesnake and alligator.  I will not eat veal as I am opposed to the inhumane way it is raised.  I guess that is a double standard since many farm animals like chickens are raised in horrific conditions.  But I digress.

I finally did take a bite and it was good.  No gamey or weird taste; close to beef but much better.  I couldn't eat more than a few bites though.  I love raccoons; their cute, inquisitive faces, their shuffling gait and ability to climb trees.  I love cows too, especially milk cows with their large eyes and creamy coats.  Maybe that's why I don't care for beef?  Is it only a matter of time before I love chickens, fish and pigs?  Time will tell.

Anyway, the moral of this story, (is there one?) is to keep an open mind and to try new foods.  Don't insist that you don't like vegetables, try them prepared different ways.  Don't say you don't like a certain texture, take a tiny bite.  Don't turn your nose up at another culture's cuisine, try it before making a judgement.  Look at food as part of life's adventure.  That doesn't mean you have to eat meat if you are a vegetarian or something that truly turns your stomach, like insects.  Life has many experiences to offer, don't shut yourself off from them.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend with your family and friends.  And don't forget that Walk With A Doc is this Saturday at Joe Mac Campbell park, 9 a.m., starting at the playground.  Help someone get started on that exercise path and bring them out.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

BIG Announcement!

I just can't wait any longer to share the news.  My blog is about to become a website!  I have been frustrated that my blog isn't very user friendly (as have my readers!) so I have been working with a friend to make some changes.  Recently, I met Manu Nair who owns a web and Ap design business and talked to him about my blog.  Before I knew it, he had talked me into converting to a website. It will have many convenient features such as a very accessible recipe index and links to other helpful websites and blogs.  There will be a new section devoted to information on raising healthy children as well.  I hope the new design will also encourage readers to provide feedback and to share it with their friends and family.

The new website should be up and running within two weeks.  But don't worry, you can still find me at the same address; you will just be redirected to the website.  Just in case you don't know, I also write on Wednesdays for, a web page devoted to what's happening around town and run by those good folks at Occasions magazine.  You should check it out as I write something different for them, plus it is a great place to check for local news and movie listings.  I am writing for the new Mid-south Latino magazine monthly, a brand new magazine aimed at the growing Latino population and started up by my friends Alex Lorenzana and Susan Ishmael.  Mid-South Latino is published in both Spanish and English so it is a good resource for anyone trying to brush up on Spanish or trying to reach the Latino market.

I will be cooking again this year at the HMG Health Expo coming up on the weekend of April 21st thru 22nd.  I'm not sure of my time slot yet but I will be doing healthy snacks so stop by and get a sample.  Or stop by and see if I can work the blender.  Regular readers may remember my fairly recent disaster with broccoli soup and the blender.

As usual, Barry and I will be doing Walk With A Doc on April 7th.  We will start at the playground at Joe Mac Campbell park and walk a mile.  If you need a push and a friend to start your exercise program, come out and join us.  Barry will be happy to answer any questions as we walk.

I got my share of exercise yesterday as I walked and ran after my horses.  When I went to the barn, I was thinking what a beautiful day it was.  Then as I gazed around at all the wonderful spring greenery, I noticed my neighbor had two new horses which looked strangely like my Roxie and Gilly.  Slowly it dawned on me that they were MY horses!  First I thought I'd left a gate open and my neighbor Joe had captured my escapees and put them in his pasture for safekeeping.  I discovered however that the locked gate between our pastures was wide open.  I grabbed a halter and set out grimly.  Sure enough, I could walk right up to all of Joe's horses but my two had suddenly become wild again, never touched by human hands.  I spent over an hour chasing them all over Joe's field.  Finally Gilly ran back in his own pasture but Roxie wasn't giving up.  She made a tactical error by trying to escape through a wooded area only to be stopped by chest high briars.  She was wedged in tight and couldn't turn around.  Backing up was difficult as there was a fallen tree she had trouble stepping over.  I just laughed and watched her dilemma.  She would turn and look at me as if to say, "What do I do?".  Finally she had backed up enough that I was able to get a halter around her head and then I made her back right up through all that mess.  Captured, she was pretty docile again.  Both horses were steaming hot and wet so both had to get a bath to cool off.  I never did find out how the horses managed to open the combination lock on the gate.  Who knew hoofs could be so nimble?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Diabetes Awareness Day

Sorry I missed it but Tuesday was Diabetes Awareness Day and the American Diabetes Association encouraged everyone to take a quick online test to determine your level of risk for having or developing diabetes.  I took the test myself and scored 2; anything below 4 is a low risk.  I strongly encourage everyone to take the test which takes less than 5 minutes.  So many Americans already have diabetes or are pre-diabetic and are totally unaware of it.

I have ranted before about the dangers of diabetes and how terrible the disease is but I guess I can never do it enough if just one person listens each time.  Diabetes often leads to heart disease, kidney disease and blindness.  Diabetes is also the leading cause of non-injury related amputations.

To take the test, go to Diabetes Risk Test - American Diabetes Association.  Please share this important information with your friends and family.  You could save a life.

Once again, eating a proper diet is a key to preventing Type II diabetes.  The rate of diabetes is soaring in the U.S. due to poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and ignorance of the disease.  Diabetes affects certain ethnic groups such as Hispanics and Blacks more than Caucasians but don't think that lets you off the hook if you are white.

I know people think that eating the kind of food I recommend and exercising is too much trouble.  They don't want to go to the effort to cook and prefer their fast food and sedentary lifestyle.  But I can tell you with 100% certainty that they will not like their lifestyle at all when it revolves around doctor visits, expensive medication, hospitalization, and restrictions on what they are capable of doing.  Health problems don't just affect the patient, they cause stress and financial difficulties for the whole family.  No one wants to be a burden to their loved ones so do the right thing.

The symptoms of diabetes include:
1. frequent urination
2. unusual thirst
3. extreme hunger
4. unusual weight loss
5. extreme fatigue or irritability
6.  frequent infections
7. blurred vision
8. cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
9. tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Type II diabetics often have no symptoms but if you have 2 or more of these symptoms, please discuss it with your doctor as soon as possible.

People with the following risk factors may develop diabetes.
1. family history of diabetes
2. injury to or disease in the pancreas
3. obesity - this is the single best predictor of type 2 diabetes
4. being insulin resistant
5. high blood pressure
6. sedentary lifestyle
7. age - those over 45 are more likely to develop diabetes but due to the obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes is spreading in increasingly younger people as is heart disease

Take the time to take care of yourself before it is too late.  I plan to enjoy life to the fullest, not sit in a wheelchair without my legs or dragging an oxygen tank everywhere.  I hope you can too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Health News Tidbits

I'm always looking at new ways to loose weight safely and over spring break I did find a way.  If you are having your kitchen remodeled, it is an excellent time to loose a few pounds as you can't access your food.  You do have to be careful not to go out and eat large, fattening meals though.  Just kidding.  I did lose a couple of pounds over spring break but I think that was due more to nerves.  We were all a bit stressed from the constant loud noise as they tore out tile and installed new floor supports.  The animals didn't eat as much either, not that they need to lose weight.

Anyway, I did hear some interesting things on the news last night.  Lately the news has been full of health related news.  BPI or Beef Products Inc. has suspended operations in 3 out of 4 plants due to the negative public reaction to pink slime and the fact that several top grocery chains will no longer purchase it.  They have promised to pay workers for 60 days as they try to convince the public that pink slime is perfectly ok to eat.  If you haven't read up on pink slime, check my post on March 13th.  You can read BPI's side and make up your own mind.  At least, meat containing pink slime should be labeled as such so the public can know exactly what they are buying.  Personally, I don't want to eat anything that has chemicals like ammonia sprayed on it.

On a more positive note, ABC news reported that popcorn is a more wholesome snack than we thought, IF you don't drown it in butter, salt and other oils.  One serving of popcorn has more antioxidants than a DAY's worth of fruits and vegetables.  Popcorn is the only food that is 100% whole grain and whole grains have more fiber and antioxidants that fruits and vegetables.  Other foods labeled 100% whole grain have other ingredients mixed in, like bread.  Popcorn hulls have the highest concentration of antioxidants.

This old popper has been in use since the mid 80's and is still going strong!

What are antioxidants you ask?  That is a pretty complicated answer but I'll do my best.  Antioxidants are substances like vitamin C which prevent or slow oxidative damage to our body.  When our body uses oxygen, free radicals are produced which cause the damage.  Antioxidants act to "mop up" the free radicals.  All you need to know is that free radicals are bad, antioxidants are good.  Antioxidants can help protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.

So dust off your popcorn popper, break out the Redenbachers and canola oil.  You do have a popper don't you?  I don't think that microwave popcorn is as healthy as most is filled with stuff you don't need.  If you do use microwave popcorn, buy the most natural, additive free version you can find.  Better to pop your own in an old fashioned popper like mine so you can control the oil, salt and other ingredients.  I should think popcorn popper sales will rise after this report.  Try using different spices to jazz up your popcorn in place of salt and skip the butter.  A serving is 3 popped cups by the way, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Last but not least, I had a great time at the Women's Health Conference on Saturday.  The women I spoke to were funny and interested in learning how to be healthier.  Try to make it next year.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Break

Due to the next week being spring break I will not be posting anything this week.  Not because I will be on a lovely trips somewhere but because I will have a house full of men, replacing my kitchen floor, installing new doors and a support beam downstairs.  I will be trying to corral the cats and the dog who will all be scared and fighting the dust and dirt.  I will be trying to keep my kids out of the house as much as possible.  But at the end of the week, I'll have a beautiful tile floor without loose, cracked tiles and doors that work properly.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Can Sugary Drinks (Sodas) Be BAD For You?

What a week it has been for heart health news!  First the disgusting revelations about pink slime (which is in your children's school lunches), then the bad news for beef eaters and now the soda industry is taking the hit on the chin.  Just yesterday a new study was in the news which shows that men who drink one 12 oz. sugary beverage each day have a whopping 20% increased risk for developing heart disease.  You may be thinking that 20% isn't so much but if I could earn a 20% return on my investments, I'd be deliriously happy.

Let's look at this a bit closer.  A typical 12 oz. soda contains 10 tsp. of sugar but many people opt for the convenient 20 oz. bottle which ups the sugar content to 18 tsp.  And how many soda drinkers limit themselves to just one soda a day?  If you are a sweet tea drinker, don't start congratulating yourself yet.  I have no idea how much sugar is in an equivalent glass of sweet tea but I'm sure it's not in the healthy range either.  What about lemonade or other popular "fruit" drinks?  The point is that continually subjecting your body to high levels of sugar stresses the body's normal functions, resulting in heart disease and diabetes.

This is what 18 tsp. of sugar looks like.  Would you eat it with a spoon?  Why drink it then?

This study, done over 22 years, was only done on men but other studies show that women are just as much at risk; after all, our bodies process sugar the same way.  Less frequent drinkers of sodas and those who drink diet sodas did not show such an increased risk.  It is also possible that soda drinkers have other unhealthy habits that contribute to the increased risk for heart disease and diabetes such as not exercising and eating processed foods.

I have been harping for years to my family, friends and readers that you are what you eat.  If you stuff your body with chemicals, sugar and fat, you have to expect to get sick at some point, in some way.  Think cancer, heart disease, strokes, gout, diabetes, kidney disease.  Give your body what it needs: vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean protein!  It's an ugly battle to regain your health once you've wrecked it, one that you may lose at a painfully early age.  I am so thankful that I gave up Mountain Dew years ago and have mostly replaced it with water.  I am also thankful that I have never really liked red meat so the we don't eat it very often at all.  Most of all, I am thankful for my healthy body and that of my family.  I have seen first hand the financial, emotional and physical toll that disease takes on the whole family, and if I can help prevent that from happening again, I'm glad to do what it takes.

So what can you do today to be healthier?    

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beef, To Eat Or Not To Eat

There has been a lot of bad publicity for the beef industry in the last week and if you missed it, I'm here to fill you in.  First, Diane Sawyer exposed that as much as 70% of ground beef in the U.S. contains pink slime, a filler once used only for dog food.  Hamburger patties contain as much as 25% of pink slime.  Pink slime is made from the waste trimmings from the cow, fat and connective tissue, which is simmered at a low temperature, spun in a centrifuge and then mixed with ground beef.  Oh, I left out the part where they spray it with ammonia to kill the bacteria.  I don't know about you, but I use ammonia to clean with, not spray on my food for that bit of extra flavor.

The USDA has said that pink slime is "meat" so it doesn't have to appear on the label.  The only way to be sure you aren't serving up slime and ammonia to your children is to buy USDA organic beef which is pure meat, no fillers.  Interestingly enough, the USDA official who approved pink slime later took a job with the beef industry and made a hefty salary.  The former USDA scientist who exposed pink slime to the world says that pink slime is not nutritious and does not buy beef at any store.  The beef industry uses pink slime to increase their bottom line and doesn't have your health in mind at this point.

Then just last night, Diane Sawyer again hammered the beef industry with further bad news.  A new study shows that eating a serving a day of red meat greatly shortens your life span.  Eating red meat can raise your risk of premature death by 12%, your risk of heart disease by 16 % and your risk of certain cancers by 10 %.  Keep in mind that a serving is about the size of a deck of cards and that the average serving of beef is several times that size.  In fact, Americans eat an average of 120 pounds of beef each year.  Processed meats such as hot dogs, lunch meat and bacon are even worse.

I hope this makes you think.  Our family eats very little red meat.  I substitute ground turkey in almost everything such as spaghetti and meatloaf.  My family has never complained and guests never seem to notice.  Before I knew of the health risks of beef, I didn't really like the taste and few people can make beef inedible like I can.  So we have long since eaten a healthier diet of chicken, fish and some pork and I encourage you to do the same.

Dr. Richard Besser of ABC news encourages people to eat no more than two servings of beef a week.  If President Clinton, once famous for his love of hamburgers and other "bad" food can turn into a vegan, you can learn to eat better too.  He became a vegan after his experience with heart disease and a quadruple bypass.  He says he feels better on a diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  I bet he does.  I know I feel better now that I eat more salads and less heavy meals myself.  So do soul searching.  Do you really want that steak now or that hamburger?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Feel Naughty Coming On

Who wouldn't feel naughty - this week is the 100th birthday of Oreo cookies!  Right now you may think you are reading some other blog but no, it's me, the cardiologist's wife.  The one who urges you to exercise and give up fat and sugar.  But when someone or something beloved turns 100, we have to celebrate.

I am not usually a fan of store bought cookies.  They just aren't as good as something you baked yourself, especially nice and hot from the oven.  To be honest, I really don't eat Oreos very often now (maybe once a year at Christmas) and didn't as a kid either.  I am impressed with the success of Oreos however.  How many companies have products that have stood the test of time for 100 years?  Indeed, how many businesses last more than a few years?  Coca cola is over 100 years old and Welch's jellies and juice drinks have been around 100 years but the 100 club has few members.

Just in time to celebrate, I'm going to share the recipe of my most popular cookie at our annual Christmas cookie party - the Oreo truffle.  They are super easy to make and no baking required.  You've been warned - no fat, sugar or preservatives are spared.  They are rich and indulgent and can be decorated to suit any holiday or occasion.

Oreo Truffles
1 package Oreo cookies, not double stuffed though you could use the vanilla ones if you like
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, let come to room temperature so it is softened
1 package almond bark
Process the cookies in a food processor until they resemble coffee grounds, trying not to eat too many.  Place crumbs in a large bowl.  Thoroughly mix in the cream cheese until you have a ball of dough.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out a bit of dough and roll it into a smooth ball.  It should be about an inch in diameter.  Set on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  When all the dough is rolled, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator about an hour to chill.  They dip better chilled.  When ready to dip, melt the almond bark in a microwave safe bowl according to package directions.  Dip the Oreo balls in the melted almond bark and return to the wax paper to dry.  You can sprinkle them with all kinds of decorative sugar or drizzle with colored icing at this point, your imagination is the limit.  Store in the refrigerator but let come to room temperature to serve.  If the balls are too crumbly as you dip them, you didn't mix in the cream cheese well enough.  Also, be careful to follow the directions on the almond bark package.  Don't try to add liquid food coloring to the almond bark or it will seize up and not melt.  I learned that the hard way and had to throw out a package of almond bark and make another trip to the store.  By the way, it probably won't take an entire package of almond bark to cover the truffles, so melt a few chunks at a time.

So there, go ahead and celebrate!  I bought a package of Oreos to take to the swim meet this weekend to share with everyone.  I'm too lazy to make the Truffles today.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We Must Have Coffee Cake Once In Awhile!

I just want to mention that the cardiologist in my life, the couch potato, has really gotten into swimming the last few months.  Finally he has found some exercise that he doesn't want to skip, that he enjoys doing and which doesn't strain his terrible knees.  (Three ACL tears + a torn meniscus + four surgeries = terrible knees)  To give him credit, he also enjoys the Latin dancing we do every week and has gotten really good. It more than qualifies as exercise.  But he swims on his own, not because I drag him there and has is pretty obsessed with doing it on a regular basis.  Kudos to Barry!  Just goes to show that we all can find some type of exercise we'll enjoy and do it often enough to reap the benefits.

But what about the coffee cake you ask?  That sounds more interesting than Barry's exercise routine!  Now you know that while I advocate avoiding sugar, fat and excess calories most of the time, I do indulge once in awhile.  I was very pleased to find this recipe recently which wasn't terribly high in sugar, (something I'm trying to cut way back on!) or fat, if you use non fat plain yogurt or sour cream.  My family all gave it a thumbs up and it was easy to throw together for a nice Saturday breakfast.  It also doesn't make a very large cake which I like because then I don't have cake for days.  A treat one morning is fine, to snack on it all day or for several days not so fine.   Best of all, it has fresh raspberries in it, a real treat!

  Raspberry Coffee Cake
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
1 egg
1/2 cup plain non fat yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix egg through vanilla in a separate bowl and stir well.  Add to dry ingredients and stir till combined.
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries
Gently toss brown sugar with raspberries.  Grease an 8 inch round cake pan and spread 2/3 of the bater in it. Sprinkle brown sugar/raspberries over the batter, then top with the remaining batter.  Bake for 35 to 40  minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Make a glaze of 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp. milk and 1/4 tsp. vanilla.  Drizzle over cooled cake.  I actually thought there was a bit too much sugar in it so next time I will cut it back a bit.  I won't tell my family though.  Sam's Club has had very good raspberries all winter.  You could substitute frozen but thaw first and drain well before using.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Walk With A Doc

This weekend, take someone you love out and walk with a Doc.  "What's that?", you say.  Walk With A Doc is a new program in the Jonesboro area designed to get people off the couch and moving.  We all know that exercise makes us feel better and even 15 minutes three times a week can have health benefits.  Still there are many people who need help to get started.

I got the idea for Walk With A Doc after reading The 17 Day Diet by Dr. Mike Moreno who started a similar program.  My husband agreed that it was an excellent idea so he collaborated with Christina Ryan of HMG to get a local program started.  The plan is that once a month, there is a scheduled walk for anyone to join led by at least one local physician.  The program is aimed at those who don't exercise currently to encourage them to get started.  At the first Walk last month, my husband gave a short talk about the benefits of exercise and a nurse checked blood pressures.  One of my husband's patients came out  and bravely walked.  I walked most of the way with him as he struggled due to his shortness of breath.  We were all so proud of him.

Anyone can join the walk, young, old, fit or not so fit.  Bring the family out to exercise before getting some shopping done.  If you know of someone who could use some motivation in starting an exercise routine, pick them up and bring them out.  Last time a father and his teen aged son joined us.  They had planned to do some shopping but stopped to see what we were doing.  After the walk, the father who was huffing and puffing, said he really needed to keep this up as he was out of shape.  I'm hoping he did.

My husband will again lead the walk which will be at the Mall at Turtle Creek.  It starts at 9 a.m. this Saturday, March 3, in the food court.  You will also have the opportunity to ask questions of my husband as you walk.  As the weather improves, the walk will move outdoors and doctors from other groups will join us.  This will be a great opportunity to visit with these doctors about health concerns and questions you may have.  I will keep my readers informed about the date, time and location of each walk.

I won't be able to attend this month's session as I will be attending a Bar Mitzvah and I don't think it would be appropriate to show up all sweaty.  I'll be sorry to miss it though.   I also apologize for the blurry photo from our first walk.  I didn't adjust the camera properly.  Look for the black t-shirts with Just Walk on the front and HMG on the back.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Confession Of The Year

Have you ever been in a dilemma where you were really doing something good but it still compromised your ethics?  I know that many people believe my family eats nothing but tofu, fruits and vegetables.  My own kids have even called me the Food Nazi.  Those who know me well know my weaknesses (Snickers, Cheetos, chocolate shakes) but also understand that I strive to serve wholesome foods most of the time.  And most of the time, I do a pretty good job.  Obviously, my blogs are all about promoting good health and helping others.  Still there are times when what you know to be right gets shoved aside for the greater good.

I have had a deep secret for a number of years, something that has bothered greatly me so it is time to confess.  Many more times than I care to admit, I have worked in concession stands, selling food that I consider to be an abomination and that I KNOW is bad for you!  I am guilty of preparing and selling ooey, gooey brownies, chips and sodas at trap meets.  I have sold handfuls of candy at swim meets to innocent young children, who gazed up at me shyly and trustingly as they handed over their money.  I have been a party to the cans of chemicals and preservatives called cheese that is heated and poured over hot Cheetos or chili cheese dogs at basketball games.  I have baked and sold DOZENS of awful, store-bought chocolate chip cookies, all in the name of raising MONEY to support my kids' activities!  I have watched, horrified, as kids buy and eat huge amounts of JUNK that constitutes their dinner that night or lunch that day.  And I have watched many of those kids and adults waddle away.  I might as well hand out business cards for locals dentists and doctors as I hand over the food, because the people who frequent concession stands are going to need them.  In case you are wondering, my husband the cardiologist has worked those same concession stands along with me.

It is quite a dilemma.  We help raise thousands of needed dollars to support trap shooting, soccer, swimming and band without which, these activities would be too expensive for many children to participate.  So ultimately, we are doing a good thing.  But as I hand over the third hamburger and chips that day to an overweight kid I know, I feel bad.  It wouldn't be so bad if I thought that it was just an occasional thing, that kid having some chips and a soda.  But by the size of his waist, I know it is not.

I console myself at swim meets because the parents of swimmers seem to be a bit better educated about nutrition.  You can actually find fruit, carrot sticks and yogurt parfaits at some meets.  Still the majority of food sold at concession stands is the stuff of nightmares - full of fat, salt, empty calories and strange chemical preservatives I can't begin to pronounce.  Let me assure you that real cheese does not come out of an industrial sized can and have an unnatural orange glow.

So there you have it.  The sad truth is that I feel I wage a lonely battle against the junk we serve our kids and ourselves.  Most people would look at me like I'd lost my mind if I suggested we change the concession stand menu even a bit.  Worse, hardly anyone would buy healthier options, except at swim meets.  You probably got a chuckle or two reading this today but I hope I won't see you at my concession stand anytime soon.    

These are some of the kids I sell junk to.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Recipe Week

It has been a week for trying new recipes at our house so that means I'm sharing with you all.  Last night's dinner was the best yet.  We really liked the combo of flavors and the twist that made this dish a little different.  I liked that it was easy and fast, perfect for school nights.  Anyone could make this, even older children and inept husbands.

I got this recipe from the 2011 Southern Living Christmas Cookbook which I received on my last birthday.  Southern Living is one of my favorite sources for recipes and some of our most beloved dishes have come from the magazine.  I also aspire to live the Southern Living life: beautiful yard, well decorated, organized and clean home, fun parties and great food.  Oh, and wonderful vacations too!  However, I fail miserably on several counts, most notably the yard.  I'd like to challenge the Southern Living experts to tackle my yard and get anything to grow more than three years before succumbing.

Ranch Turkey Ravioli Casserole
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained (I forgot to drain mine, it was fine)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I used 1 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. cumin
2 cups (or small cans) green enchilada sauce
2 9 oz.  packages refrigerated cheese ravioli
2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
Heat oven to 400.  Combine 1st four ingredients in a bowl.  Spread one can of enchilada sauce in a lightly greased 11 x 7 baking dish.  Arrange half the ravioli over the sauce.  Top with half the black bean mixture, 1 cup meat, 1/4 cup onions and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce.  Repeat layers.  Pour remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until heated through and lightly browned.

 I served this dish with a side of sautéed spinach which takes about 5 minutes to cook.  This dish is a bit higher in fat than I'd like with all the cheese but I like the fiber from the beans and the vegetables in it.  You could adapt this to a vegetarian dish quite easily; just add extra beans.  I also think the fire roasted tomatoes would add a nice touch.  This is a great recipe to use that leftover chicken or turkey.  So this Sunday, you could roast a large chicken and use the leftover meat to make a fast dinner later in the week when things get hectic.

As I said, even an older child could make this.  Give them kitchen scissors to slice the onions and they don't even have to use a knife.  If they can use a can opener, they're in business.

Note:  I do not mean to imply that all men are helpless in the kitchen, just the ones I know best.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eating Well In A Jiffy

Time is often short at our house, just like it is at yours but that doesn't mean I short change the family on nutritious meals.  It takes a commitment to eating healthy, nutritious meals.  So after I got home from an overnight college visit with my son yesterday afternoon,  I was back out the door in 40 minutes to the grocery where I stocked up on food to last a few days.  I had a meal plan and shopping list for three days which included breakfast and lunches.  I got home about 6 p.m. and made a good dinner.

To do this, you need to be organized and have several go to recipes that are easy and quick to prepare.  Sometimes you have to rely on partially prepared foods and leftovers to ease things along, like I did last night.  I had some leftover butternut squash soup which served as one of our vegetables.  I purchased a roasted chicken from the grocery for the chicken and broccoli casserole I made.  (One roasted chicken can sometimes yield enough meat for two meals.)  I used frozen broccoli rather than chop up fresh.

I did compromise my morals a bit last night as I used a jarred Alfredo sauce (higher in fat than I'd like) and I topped the casserole with buttered bread crumbs (which I rarely do).  Still a nice hot dinner was on the table with a little effort on my part.  Here is the photo and recipe.

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
1/4 cup butter melted
3 cups of cubed sourdough or other bread, whole wheat would be better
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese or less
3 cups broccoli florets or chopped broccoli
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup drained and chopped roasted red bell pepper
1 10 oz. jar of Alfredo sauce
1/2 cup sour cream, use low fat
2 Tbsp. sherry
Drizzle butter over bread crumbs.  Set aside.  Heat oven to 400.  Combine broccoli and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl.  Spoon mixture into a greased 2 quart baking dish.  Bake uncovered for 25 minutes then top with bread crumbs and cheese.  Continue baking until bubbly and lightly browned on top.

I also surprised my family with a lovely green smoothie last night. If you'd like the recipe and to find out what's in it, check out my other blog tomorrow on  You can find out who liked it and who didn't.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Other Blogs

I am always reading.  I check the news on MSN, I read the local paper, books and magazines.  I also watch local TV and national news, and Good Morning America.  I can't go to sleep at night until I've read for a few minutes, either fiction or non-fiction.  I like to keep up with what's happening.  Since I was up early this morning (5 a.m.) but not functioning enough to write, I checked out a few other blogs.  I don't follow many blogs but recently I came across two that I think are worthwhile to share.

Both are well written and interesting, especially from a foodie's point of view and from a healthy one too.  I am always looking for new ideas and better ways to cook at home and these offer ideas in abundance.  You may want to check them out as well.  The first one is written by a man in Canada who has discovered a love of cooking and eating well.  In other words, a man after my own heart.  Some of his recipes do NOT make the heart or waist healthy list, but some do.  Some of his recipes contain ingredients that will not be found in our little hamlet such as birds eye chilies.  (Readers, correct me if you've seen birds eye chillies locally, though after my chipolte experience, I'm not sure I want to see them.)  Indeed I was surprised to see that he even had one of the same recipes that I do - Pizza Dip.  I have not tried any of his other recipes but I will soon such as the cucumber and feta rolls.  Check out by Kevin Lynch.   He has a sly sense of humor as well, as he claims to cook in a tiny closet sized kitchen.

The other blog I was immediately attracted to because the writer, a mother like me, tries to find healthy ways to feed her family and aims for a rainbow a day for good nutrition.  She has a vast collection of recipes including some which are vegan or gluten free.  I am trying her creamed corn buttermilk bread tonight.  I like that it has whole wheat flour in it.  Look for her at

Both blogs have gorgeous photographs of which I am jealous.  Hopefully my own photos will continue to improve as I learn more about my new camera.  Anyway, I think you will enjoy these blogs if you like to cook as I do.  Check them out today and try something new this weekend!

I'd like to mention a new local magazine that two friends of mine have collaborated on - Mid-South Latino.  This bi-lingual magazine is aimed at the growing Latino population in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.  I am honored that they have chosen to include my articles in their publication.  If you are interested in reaching the Latino market for your business, you can contact Susan Ishmael or Alex Lorenzana at    

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day to all!  I believe that our relationships are so important to our well being so be sure to show your love to your friends and family today.  What are the ways you show your love?  Everyone is different and expresses their love in unique ways.  It is a good idea to try to tune into how to best show love to those in your life.  For instance,  nothing says "I love you" to me like a home cooked meal or flowers.  Others might prefer a gift or a massage.  Your children might appreciate extra one on one time or a treat such as movie tickets.  Just taking the time to figure out what that special someone really wants shows your love.

So how is the cardiologist's family celebrating?  Valentines brings lots of chocolates and fancy dinners and our house is no different.  I gave my kids a small amount of chocolate candy, my husband a book and he gave me roses.  Tonight I am cooking brown sugar glazed salmon, garlic pasta, strawberries and pineapple salad with a chocolate pie for dessert.  I was aiming for a mixture of healthy and decadent.  While salmon is heart healthy, it is also a rich and impressive dish.  The strawberries give that red Valentines touch and what would Valentines be without a chocolate dessert?

Here is the recipe for the salmon.  As usual, it couldn't be any easier.  For the garlic pasta, all you do is boil the required amount of pasta per person and while that cooks, sauté as much minced garlic as you want in a large quantity of olive oil, maybe 3 to 4 Tbsp.  When the garlic is lightly brown and fragrant, toss with the cooked pasta and sprinkle with a bit of fresh parmesan and about 1/4 cup of bread crumbs.  Add more olive oil if the pasta is too dry.

Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. white wine
4 to 6 salmon fillets
Mix above ingredients, except fish.  Place salmon fillets in a large zip top bag and add marinade.  Marinate for 3 to 5 hours.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until fish is just done.  Yum!

Remember, Valentines Day comes but once a year but that doesn't let us off the hook the other 364 days.  Work on your relationships every day and the benefits will definitely come back to you.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

After working out this morning, I began to think about my exercise routine.  I have been feeling that it's time for something new as I don't feel my muscles are improving.  Then I began to wonder.  How do you know you are getting enough exercise or just going through the motions and wasting your time?  As usual, I started doing a bit of research.

For those just starting out, who may be more loose and pillowy than lean and mean, it is probably best to start any exercise routine slowly.  You don't want to injure your body and thus set yourself back right at the start.  You should expect muscle soreness from most any activity you choose.  Muscle soreness is a sign that you have worked your muscles and that they are getting stronger.  Give yourself a couple of days rest between workouts to recover at first but don't quit just because you're sore.  You should try to push yourself to the point where you are a little fatigued, breathless and sweaty.

Exercise can be as fun as dancing.

Learn to distinguish between soreness, even if it's pretty bad, and true pain which indicates an injury.  Yes, it may hurt to get out of bed and walk the next couple of days after starting an exercise routine but if you really can't get up or move a limb, you've gone too far and possibly injured yourself.  Also, check with a doctor or work with a specialized trainer if you have a medical condition like Parkinson's or have had a previous heart attack.  Remember that soreness leads to stronger muscles; however, you don't have to be sore after a workout to strengthen your muscles.

Once you have achieved a level of fitness, move up and challenge yourself.  Working with a trainer periodically can help motivate you to try harder.  A trainer can access where you are and help you set new goals.  A study released by the Harvard Medical school shows that to really be fit, you should do strength training of all major muscle groups at least twice a week.  Ideally you should also perform 30 minutes of moderate aerobic workouts 5 times a week, as well as balance and flexibility training.  If your routine has become easy or you no longer can see improvements in your body, it is time for a change.  Otherwise, there is no point in wasting time at the gym.

To ease or prevent soreness, always include a cool down phase.  Jog or walk about 10 minutes then stretch all major muscle groups.  When stretching, move slowly, breathe and don't force the stretch or you could injure something.  However, do make sure you are feeling the stretch and achieving more flexibility over time.  You can also try soaking in a hot tub or applying ice to a particular area.  Also rest a day or two between secessions.

Exercise can be really hard.

I'll leave you with these thoughts.  A pound of muscle burns about 10 to 20 calories a day while a pound of fat burns only about 5 calories a day.  Makes a good case for working out as it definitely helps you loose weight and keep it off.  Those who work really hard, like athletes, can eat more of the food they love (but not junk food, that's always bad for you).    

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Confession Of SuperBowl Sized Food

Some occasions just provide us with an excuse for indulgence, don't they?  The Superbowl has become so much more than a football game that even those of us who couldn't care less about the game have something to do on Superbowl Sunday.  First of all, there's the food and parties, second the commercials.  My Superbowl tale of woe starts on Friday evening, when PMS was in the ruling house.  I crave salty foods so when we ate at a local Mexican restaurant, I had plenty of chips and salsa.  Thankfully, I skipped the cheese dip, knowing my weakness.  I also skipped the margarita because I am pretty snobby about drinks and if they can't make one better than my husband, why waste the calories?

I had an unpleasant experience at the restaurant.  We ordered ceviche which if done correctly is raw fish or shellfish, cooked in citric juices only, with fresh herbs, tomatoes and onions.  It is usually delicious so we decided to give it a try.  I ordered the FISH ceviche due to my shellfish allergy.  However by the end of dinner, my lip began to tingle and swell, getting a little numb, like it does when I've had shrimp.  Since my physician friends and husband have all warned me that I could have a really bad reaction if I persist in eating shellfish, such as difficulty breathing (see my post on food allergies, March 2011), I felt somewhat nervous.  It turned out to be minor and by the time we were home watching a movie, the swelling was going down.

The over indulgences continued on Saturday.  I bought some sweet potato muffins that have a chunk of chocolate on top plus some cinnamon raisin bread for breakfast.  I did walk over a mile at the first Walk With A Doc but that was not enough to ward off the impending disaster.

This Superbowl Sunday we had decided to just celebrate with family but I had planned plenty of Superbowl sized junk food, for our house anyway.  My sister made a wonderful new corn salsa which I will share in a moment.  I had lots of chips and dip.  I made a large pot of chili which isn't that bad until you hear that I served the chili over spicy fries with cheddar cheese on top.  I used Boar's Head sharp cheddar which is a fine cheese by the way.  Pat and Barry had beer, which is gross, but Barry made me a Lemon Boom Boom which is vodka with muddled fresh basil and lemon juice.  I can pretend it's somewhat healthy.  We topped off the feast with chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting that my daughter made from scratch.  Yummy yum yum!

The sorry truth was revealed Monday morning when the scales showed I had gained a nifty three pounds.  Now that may not sound like much but if I ignore that and continuously add to it, I could be up 30 lbs. in no time.  And we all know that it is so much easier to gain it than to lose it.  So, back to better ways and I'm happy to report that I have already lost 1 of those ugly pounds by sweating and eating sensibly.

The corn salsa was the healthiest thing we ate on Sunday.  It actually has lots of fresh herbs and vegetables and is awesome served over grilled chicken or fish as I'm going to do with the leftovers tonight.  I'm also adding some chopped avocado to it.  I picked this recipe up from Jennifer Smith who taught a continuing education class recently at ASU on entertaining.

Corn Salsa
16 oz. bag of frozen corn, thawed
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion chopped
2 to 3 tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 limes juiced
Dressing: 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 2 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder, 1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin.
Heat oven to 350.  Place corn on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to promote even roasting.  Mix corn with other vegetables and toss with dressing.  May be served warm or chilled.  Don't worry that there is too much chili powder and cumin; trust me, it is just right.  This is even better the next day or two as the flavors blend so this is great to make ahead.

The moral of this sad tale is that those over indulgences do add up and over time, can aid in wrecking your precious health.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to watch your weight, exercise and eat righteously 95% of the time.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Would You Do With $600?

Tuesday you learned that the average family of four throws away $600 of food each year.  What can you do to save some of that money and avoid wasting food?  The answers are not always easy.  Sometimes, the yogurt carton bursts open in my children's lunch bag and spills out.  That is an accident.  But when your child simply doesn't eat what is in their lunch, that is wasteful.

Children waste an enormous amount of food.  Try to teach them the importance of saving money by not throwing away food.  Instead of saying there are starving children in Africa, say that the money saved can be used to take the family to the movies.  Buy drinks in the smallest possible cans and bottles as they often can't finish the larger sizes.  Serve their meals on small plates and give them small portions.  It is better to give seconds than to throw away uneaten food.  Don't feed them large snacks too close to dinner and then expect them to eat a large meal.

Here are some other ways to cut back on the food we throw out.
1. To find out if a food is still safe to eat, or whether it should be tossed out, use the website  This is a great resource and breaks food down into all kinds of categories.
2. Plan out your meals for several days, make a grocery list and stick to it.  Impulse purchases are most likely to be thrown out.
3.  Serve smaller portions.  Just like children, our eyes are sometimes bigger than our stomach, plus it's a great way to control the waistline.
4. Save and use leftovers.  My family often has leftover night which means I don't have to cook.  Saves time and money and people can eat at different times if schedules are conflicting.
5. If you try a new cereal for example, and find you don't like it, give it to a friend or neighbor.  You could also share some of your meals with a neighbor who is single or elderly and might appreciate the thought.  Just make sure to take it over right away and not 5 days later.
6. Be sure you will use what you buy.  If you always wanted to try Meyer lemons and suddenly find some in your local store, be sure you know how you will use them so they don't spoil before you find a recipe.
7. Buy just the amount needed at bulk food stores instead of how much the regular store decides you need.
8. If you find you can't use something before it spoils, freeze it.  Just make sure you wrap it properly.
9. Shop more frequently.  Food bought on Saturday might spoil before Thursday's dinner.
10. Clean out and organize your refrigerator.  If you can't see it easily, it might go bad.
11. At restaurants, skip the extra bread basket or fries if you won't eat it.  I don't like potato chips so I will ask that they not be put on my plate with a sandwich.
12. Don't fall for bargains.  Studies from Harvard Business School show that stocking up on certain items leads to overspending and waste.  Sam's Club is a great example.  If you do shop there, you might want to split some things with a friend or neighbor.  The bread is always packaged as two loaves and my family can't eat it all before it is stale so I skip it.  Same with many of the vegetables and fruits there.  I can't use 5 or 6 avocados.

The important thing is to be aware and make an effort to save food.  If you keep your pocket book in mind,  it is easier to do.  On the other hand, don't beat yourself up if you do need to toss something.  Just try to do better next time.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do You Throw Away Money?

Back in August, I wrote about hunger in America.  Now I am writing about the overwhelming amount of food wasted in America each year.  Before you skip this post, give me a minute to explain why you should  read on.

We all must eat so a large part of every household budget goes towards food.  When you throw away food you are throwing away your hard earned dollars.  Interested now?  You might not be able to control the price of gas, your mortgage, rent or electricity but your food budget is pretty flexible.  I've been keeping track of how much money I can save by using coupons and buying things on sale.  So far, I'm on track to save about $2000 in one year for a family of four plus four cats and a dog.  Another way to save money on food is to cut out chips, cokes and sweets, or at least cut back drastically.  You can shop for the brands that cost the least and have meatless dinners once in awhile.  The final way to save money is to plan carefully so that food isn't wasted and thrown away.  The whole family must learn the importance of not wasting food.

On Thursday, I'll give you several tips to prevent wasting food, thus saving money.  Food waste has a huge economic and environmental impact so I'll end today by giving you some startling statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources.  I hope it will make you think before you toss anymore food.

Americans throw away 34 million TONS of food each year.  That is roughly equivalent to 8500 average sized cars.  Only paper is a larger component of msw or municipal solid waste but we recycle more paper.  Food waste is the single largest msw component in landfills and incinerators.  We spend about 1 BILLION dollars each year to dispose of wasted food.  At the home level, we throw away about 470 pounds of food for a family of four each year or about $600 worth.  What could you do with $600?

Food waste has a tremendous environmental impact.  Rotting food in garbage cans attracts rodents and smells bad.  Rotting food in landfills produces methane gas which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Much of the food waste could be composted which has many benefits.  Composting improves the soil which reduces the need for fertilizer, water and pesticides.  It is easy to compost right at home by collecting fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells.  You can place these scraps in a fancy store bought com-poster or create one of your own.  I do this everyday and avoid putting quite a bit of food in the trash.

A tremendous amount of food could be redistributed to those in need.  Day old bread is perfectly good but is often tossed unless a food recovery program is nearby.  With so many in our country going hungry each day, we need to do better than throwing away usable food.

So it seems that there are economical, ethical and environmental reasons to avoid food waste.  I hope you'll check back on Thursday for some tips to save food.      

Thursday, January 26, 2012

National Peanut Butter Day

Since my whole family loves peanuts and peanut butter, I can't imagine how we all missed National Peanut Butter Day on January 24th.  Had I known, we would have celebrated with all our favorite ways to eat peanut butter.  It would have been hard to choose between peanut butter pie and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting for dessert, but we could have started our meal with a nice peanut butter soup and moved on to Peanut Butter Chicken for the main course.  I must admit that the girls in the family are the big peanut lovers, followed by my husband and then my son.  My son doesn't like Peanut Butter Chicken but I will share the recipe and you can try it for yourself.  I have been known to have a serious peanut addiction that meant I ate a small amount of peanuts every day.  The last couple of months I haven't felt like eating peanuts though so I must have finally burned myself out on them.

 Peanut butter has an interesting history.  It is thought to have originated in South America where the Indians ground peanuts into a kind of paste.  The modern version of PB probably started in the late 1800's with Dr. Kellogg of Kellogg cereal fame, who made peanut butter and served it to his patients as a nutritious protein.  Other Americans perfected the spread or invented machines to grind up the peanuts.  The National Peanut Board claims that Americans eat more than 6 pounds of peanut butter a year.  Wow!  Peanut butter is very nutritious though high in monounsaturated fats and calories.  It is high in fiber, protein, vitamins B3 and E and iron.  Peanut butter contains more antioxidants than apples and carrots and contains Resveratrol,  a natural anitmicrobial agent that can protect against cancer, viruses, and has anti-inflammatory properties.

I didn't cook with peanuts or peanut butter until several years ago.  Peanut butter was for PB and J's.  Once we were having an early American dinner when the kids were really young and I made peanut butter soup.  The rest of the family wasn't crazy about it but I discovered that peanut butter had so many more possibilities.  The following recipe is is pretty easy and a different from your ordinary chicken.  You'll like it if you like peanuts.

Peanut Butter Chicken
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
8 pieces of chicken such as legs or thighs
Place these ingredients except for the chicken in a microwave safe bowl and microwave 30 seconds at a time until easy to mix.  Place chicken in a large zip top bag, add marinade and close bag.  Massage chicken to make sure it is all coated then marinate about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile mix the following ingredients in a pie plate or similar dish.
1/2 cup ground peanuts
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper
After 30 minutes, remove chicken from bag and roll in the peanut/crumb mixture.  Place in a lightly greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until lightly brown and done.