I’m a terrible cook. And it’s my mother’s fault! Don’t get me wrong. Mom was an incredible cook. But she “enabled” me to become an inept cook by failing to insist I learn my way around the kitchen. Oh, I had to clean and do yard work on weekends, but sports and other after-school activities didn’t allow time for learning the fine art of separating eggs or reducing sauces. After swim practice, I’d come home to a foil-covered plate in the warming oven with a beautifully balanced, healthy meal…a la Mom!
I got away with it for years. Working the night shift is a great excuse for an empty fridge. Even my long-suffering husband tolerated his wife’s lack of culinary skills. Tom never once complained…even when dinner was a bowl of raisin bran with a side of apple slices!
And now that I’ve run out of excuses, I’ll be honest. When it comes to cooking, I would still rather address a joint session of Congress than prepare a meal for anyone! That’s why I’m sold on salads! Even I can toss a decent salad…and with a little planning, I can include enough nutritious additions to turn a salad into a meal!
Lately, I’ve been using a chart I found in the Mayo Clinic Health letter that has been enormously helpful to me in planning tasty, but well-balanced and filling dinner salads. Even if, like me, you’re a kitchen-phobe…I promise, you CAN build a better salad.
YOUR SALAD SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS…..
Extras—Choose any one or no more than two: No more than 1 tablespoon (T) mayonnaise, 2 -T salad dressing, 3 -T sour cream or 1 teaspoon oil; ¼ avocado, about 6 nuts; about 8 olives; 2 –T chopped pickles; 2 –T dried fruit or ¼ cup salsa.
Herbs—As desired: Basil, chives, dill, fennel, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro or tarragon
Carbohydrates and whole grains—Choose any one: Whole grains:1/2 cup barley, bulgur, couscous, kasha, millet, quinoa, pasta, brown rice or wild rice. Whole-grain breads and such: 1 small bagel, a slice of bread, a roll or pita. One serving, according to the label, of whole-wheat crackers, crisp whole-wheat bread, matzo, melba, pretzels, rice cakes or ½ cup croutons.
Protein—Choose any one: Meatless: ½ cup lentils, peas, tofu, tempeh, beans such as soy, black, pinto, garbanzo, white or kidney, or one egg. Lean meats, fish and seafood: Up to 2 ounces beef, lamb, pork, poultry, tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, scallops, shrimp, clams or crab. Low-fat dairy: Up to 1 ounce of cheeses, such as cheddar, cottage, goat, feta or Swiss.
Vegetables and fruits—Choose two or more totaling 2 cups: Artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, green onions, jicama, pea pods, peppers, radishes, squash, apples, apricots, berries, citrus sections, grapes, mango, melon, peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranate or watermelon.
Leafy greens—Choose 2 cups or more: Among the varieties are arugula, watercress, cabbage, Belgian or red endive, escarole, collards, bok choy, cabbage, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, green or red lettuce, bibb lettuce, iceberg lettuce, mesculin, radicchio, watercress, romaine and spinach.
Then…just add your favorite dressing…perhaps a lite, creamy style or squeeze on some lemon juice or drizzle a little red wine vinegar or olive oil over your salad. Go ahead! Create a healthy salad.
Summer’s almost here. Think about replacing your favorite hot meal with a full-meal salad that’s cool and delicious. With so many possible combinations of good, healthy foods, you and your family will never get bored.
I love Wednesdays! That’s the day each week I get to join some seventy-five of the coolest women I know for Community Bible Study (CBS) in Coronado. We gather first in small groups to discuss and apply the previous week’s lesson…then join everyone else to hear a lecture that takes a deeper look at the historical perspective of the scripture text.
And while I enjoy all the teaching and talking—I really look forward to our monthly fellowship “feeds!” Seriously, There’s something about women of faith and food! (Think church potluck!) We all bring something yummy to share after class. (They usually have me bring fruit…something I can’t screw up!)
Fortunately, we can always count on Trish, my small group leader, to show up with a piping hot pan of her famous “crust-less quiche!” Everyone loves it! No heavy, thick dough…just Trish’s fabulous combination of eggs, milk, cheese, onions and spinach. Surprisingly, her quiche slices neatly and firmly…even without a doughy foundation. Trish says it’s the cheese settling to the bottom of the quiche that creates the faux crust.
One day, after downing a super-sized slice of Trish’s mouth-watering, cheesy egg concoction… I asked her how she, a busy, young mom of four finds time to cook?! With a big smile, Trish assured me her quiche recipe is simple! I begged her to share it with me…then she agreed to let me share it with you!
Now that eggs are once again finding favor with doctors and nutritionists…I’ve been looking for ways to include the incredible edible into my diet regularly.
So here’s an easy egg recipe that’s big on protein, low in carbs and positively DEE-lish! (Did I mention it’s also gluten-free?!)
Trish’s Crust-less Spinach Quiche
1 TBLS vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 10-oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 eggs, beaten (Trish confided sometimes she throws in a sixth!)
3 cups shredded Muenster cheese (or any other cheese blend)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan. Bake until eggs have set—about 30 min. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Since I can remember, a high-fat diet has been a big, fat no-no.
For years, that message has been firmly ingrained in the minds of every American…touted by doctors, lawmakers and food suppliers. From grocery stores to vending machines, we’ve been told low fat (or no fat) is the way to go.
Despite the decades-long fight against fat in food, obesity rates and health complications, including heart disease, continue to rise. After all this time, a growing number of scientists, doctors and dietitians are not only questioning the low-fat doctrine, they now admit the theory that consuming fat causes heart disease is based on bad science.
Are you kidding me?! All those years of sacrificing rich, whole milk and creamy yogurt for their watery, tasteless fat-free substitutes was for naught?
The findings come from the recent publication of a major analysis by a team of British and U.S. researchers. The report looked at previous studies on the topic and concluded there’s no significant difference in death rates in people who ate less saturated fat than those who didn’t.
Not only that, according to the analysis, while reducing fat intake did result in lower total blood cholesterol levels, it did not correlate with any discernible health benefit. (Check it out in “Open Heart,” a publication of the British Medical Journal)
Apparently, the original evidence for the dietary fat/heart disease connection was shaky, but once published, took on a life of its own, causing lawmakers and medical professionals to act without good, scientific validation including:
- No randomized, controlled trials
- Statistically insignificant study results
How could this happen?
It seems a number of studies done in recent years have found the link between dietary fat, weight and heart disease is exaggerated. And get this - researchers now say being slightly overweight isn’t harmful and might even be beneficial.(What next? Twinkies found to be a superfood?!)
If these studies and new analysis hold up, the implications for the medical system could be huge. How will doctors advise their patients? Companies could lose billions in sale of low fat fare. Government dietary guidelines would need a major makeover.
But before you run to the store for a quart of Haagen Das, there’s no consensus yet, as the debate rages.
Some not only question the validity of the new findings, they wonder how (or even whether!) to inform the public about them. Some say the possible paradigm shift would cause mass confusion. Others say (and I agree) medical science should be concerned with facts first - not with an overly simple message- when the truth is complex and nuanced.
What to do? For now, I’ll continue to eat plenty of the “good” fats found in nuts, avocadoes and fish. But I’m done with see-through skim milk, chewy non-fat cottage cheese and eggs without yolks. For now, I’m eating food the way God made it…until I know more.
Prunes. The word alone can still make me smile.
As kids, Mom would fix stewed prunes for my sister, brother and me whenever we had trouble, well….going! For years, I actually thought prunes were medicine…like aspirin or cough syrup!
By junior high, I knew better, but still laughed hysterically with my friends while singing,
“Prunes, prunes, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel. So let’s have prunes at every meal.” (rolling on the floor laughing!)
What else could you expect from a bunch of pre-adolescent goof balls who believed bodily functions were the source of all humor?!
The poor prune’s reputation as a laxative may be unfortunate because it overshadows the fact that prunes are not only sweet and tasty…they’re also a rich source of nutrients!
Did you know just one prune contains up to five percent of the recommended daily intake of many essential minerals and vitamins…in addition to its legendary dietary fiber?
Not a fan of prunes? You’re not alone. In fact, women ages 25 to 54 react so negatively to the idea of prunes, the California Prune Board pressured the FDA to change their name to the more appealing “dried plums” (which they technically are!)
And it worked! Sales of the super-healthy purple fruit have hit new heights! But prunes (or shall we call them dried plums?) are proving to be far more than a digestion remedy.
Because they contain high levels of phytonutrients called phenols, prunes can protect the brain from free radical damage and can help prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Prunes and plums help prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity. They’re high in the soluble fiber that help keep blood sugar levels stable.
The soluble fiber in prunes also helps lower cholesterol, improves bone health and are a good source of vitamin K and beta carotene…nutrients that can actually make you happier! So you see, my childhood song is true!...the “more you eat, the better you feel!”
Still, when it comes to constipation, the prune is a rock star…more effective than psyllium, according to recent studies. Only 30 calories, the soluble fiber in prunes also makes you fill up faster.
So for a whole bunch of reasons, I snack on prunes, chop them up in salads and oatmeal and include them in recipes…like this de-LISH dish from my friend, Susan Haber. This one’s SO good, I make it for company!
Susan’s Chicken Marbella
(adapted from the “Silver Palate” Cookbook)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup pitted prunes
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
½ cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
¼ cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 chickens (2 1/2 pounds each), quartered
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry, white wine
¼ cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1. Combine olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350.
3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
4. Bake, basting frequently with pan juices, until thigh pieces yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice when pricked with a fork, 50 min. to 1 hour.
5.With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass the remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
Soooooo good! Enjoy!
Throughout my TV news career, covering elections was by far the most stressful and difficult. Hours of live reporting with no script...my head exploding trying to recall details about the candidates, campaigns and issues.
What got me through those chaotic election nights? Weeks of study, detailed notes (cheat sheets!) and a three-egg omelet with cheese and veggies for before work.
Seriously, eggs are my go-to food whenever I need to be sharp, calm and focused for the long haul.
It may be a cute marketing slogan, but I can give you a half dozen reasons for replacing your usual breakfast with the “incredible, edible egg” when you need to be at your best.
If you start your day with cereal or toast instead of eggs, here’s a wake-up call. Eggs have six grams of high quality protein. A protein-packed breakfast helps sustain mental and physical energy throughout the day (or night of election coverage!)
Eggs are rich in choline, which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. (It’s like a commuter train for vitamins and minerals!)
ZERO CARBS—NO SUGAR
With no carbs or sugar, you get eat a well-balanced breakfast without widening your waistline!
AMINO ACIDS and VITAMINS
Eggs have all nine essential amino acids…leucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, histidine, valine, threonine and isoleucine. And while they may be hard to pronounce, these amino acids really ARE essential.
Eggs also packed with Vitamins B2, B12, A and E.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Unlike most cereals and yogurt, eggs don’t come with a complicated, lengthy ingredient list because they contain only one ingredient. Eggs. Period. And at fifteen cents a serving, eggs are the least expensive source of high-quality protein.
NO GLUTEN? NO PROBLEM.
Of course, eggs are naturally gluten-free. Always have been. Always will be. That’s good news because there are relatively few gluten-free breakfast options.
But, what about cholesterol, you ask? Well, recent studies have exonerated the misunderstood egg as a contributor to coronary heart disease. In fact, a University of Connecticut study found eggs actually improved good cholesterol in adults with metabolic syndrome.
So, give yourself permission to crack open a couple of eggs! It’s a great way to get a health boost (and power through the toughest day.)
To get you started…here’s my favorite egg casserole recipe. It’s easy, yummy and a gift from my friend and awesome cook, Carol Morrison!
Carol’s Green Chile Frittata
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
10 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 pound Jack cheese, grated
3 (4-oz) cans diced green chiles
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X13-inch baking dish. Mix flour and baking powder. Add eggs and butter. Blend well. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture in prepared dish and bake 35 to 45 minutes until set.
Great for brunch! Thanks, Carol!
Have I told you about my amazing nephews? I’ve been blessed to be “Aunt Carol” to three of the finest young men you’ll ever meet.
A gifted massage therapist, Colin is the oldest at 27. Handsome and bright, Colin also has a heart as big as all outdoors!
Nineteen year-old Devin, a sophomore at (his auntie’s alma mater!) the University of Northern Iowa is tall, blonde, adorably mischievous and can run like the wind.
Sadly, I don’t get to see them as often as I like because, along with their Dad (my little bro, Carter) and Mom, Dana, Iowa is home.
So imagine my delight when my middle nephew, Ian, announced he was moving to California’s Central Coast. Now that he’s just a five-hour road trip away, Aunt Carol and Uncle Tom get to connect with him a lot more often.
Good-looking, athletic and creative, Ian is also brilliant…with a great job at a large, computer software company in San Luis Obispo (SLO). What I didn’t know about the multi-talented “E-Man,” (as he’s affectionately known by friends and family) is he’s apparently also skilled in the kitchen.
With a little help from his Mom’s recipe (and a couple of “secret weapons,” Ian recently won a chili cook-off in SLO…hands down! Now that I’ve tried E’s chili, I’ve got to hand it to him. It’s absolutely delicious (and hot as a witch’s broom handle!!)
Ian agreed to let me share it with you…as long as his Mom gets proper credit. (I told you my nephews are amazing!)
Note the “secret weapons…”Mr. and Mrs. T’s Original Bloody Mary Mix and Baker’s chocolate.
LeBeau's Chili aka "Mom's Chili"
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion diced
3 celery stalks w/ leaves
1 t. salt & pepper (or to taste)
3-4 T. chili powder
3 T. Cajun seasoning
1/4 C. brown sugar
16 oz. pork n' beans
16 oz. dark kidney beans
16 oz. navy beans
16 oz. black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can beef consume
2 squares of semi-sweet bakers chocolate
1 bottle Bloody Mary Mix (Mr. & Mrs. T's Original)
Brown the hamburger/sausage and use the grease to sauté your celery and onion. Add everything else! Simmer for one hour.
Make it the day before! And enjoy!
Thanks “E” and Dana!!
On our recent tour of western Canada and the majestic Canadian Rockies, my husband Tom and I learned many “fun facts” about our neighbor to the north. I can actually sing the lyrics to the Canadian National Anthem, “Oh, Canada!”
While Canada may not have an official national bird…because of the loon pictured on one side, Canucks refer to their one-dollar coins as “loonies.” (BTW…the two-dollar coin is called a “twonie!”)
There’s also an unofficial sweet treat unique (almost!) to Canada known as the Nanaimo (nuh-NYE-mo) Bar. If you’re into sugar highs, you simply must try this melt-in-your-mouth confection. And I’ve got the recipe!
But first, a little history.
According to local legend, about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo (city on Vancouver Island) housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry “Nanaimo Bars.” Her entry won a prize…promoting the town, as much as her baking.
Some American tourists may claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as “New York Slice,” which is sold in other places in the world. But Nanaimo residents refuse to accept this theory, believing that once you set foot on Vancouver Island, there are no other places in the world. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe became available as a handout, as well as on tea towel and apron souvenirs.
In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts held a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, nearly 100 different variations of the famous treat were submitted. The winner? Joyce Hardcastle.
Here’s her recipe:
½ cup unsalted butter (European-style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 Tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8” x 8” pan.
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar (confectioners)
Cream butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Trust me; you don’t even want to know the calorie count. It is decidedly decadent. But this no-bake bar with an international flair may just wow your friends and family this holiday season.
In recent months, I’ve shared with you about the wonderful birthday group of gals I’m blessed to be part of. We’ve been meeting to celebrate our respective birthdays for more than 30 years. I’m grateful for all seven of these fabulous women. We’ve been through a lot together…most of it fun!
Due to my complete ineptness in the kitchen, the “girls” surprised me on my last birthday with copies of their favorite, easy, crowd-pleasing and idiot-proof recipes.
My last entry, in August, was Marlena Brown’s all-in-one-bowl chicken pesto pasta. If you haven’t given it a try, it’s a winner.
Today, I want to highlight one of Kendra Dawson’s signature recipes. We call her the soup queen…for good reason. Beef barley to chicken vegetable, Kendra’s homemade soups can’t be beat. And that goes for her famous Latin American specialty, pozole.
Pozole is especially popular in Mexico and the American Southwest, but my Gringo friend Kendra morphs into “Kendrita” when pozole’s on the menu.
Kendra’s made this recipe simple for all us Gringos. Add a salad and thick slices of bread and you’re sure to get a big !Que Bueno! from your family and friends.
3 cups cooked chicken (chopped)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 15-oz. can hominy (drain and wash)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups of your favorite salsa
2-3 celery stalks, chopped (leafy tops ok)
1 small-medium white or yellow onion
1 lg. or 2 or 3 small red, green or yellow bell peppers, chopped
(optional) parsley or cilantro sprigs to garnish
1. Chop chicken and place in bowl
2.Chop celery, onions and peppers and place in bowl
3. In a large soup pot, place chicken broth, sliced tomatoes, salsa. Use the tomato can and fill twice with water and add to pot.
4. Bring to a boil. Add chopped onion, celery and peppers. Lower heat to medium. Stir frequently. Cook 10 minutes.
5. Add hominy and chicken. Cook about 10 minutes
Serve in soup bowls.
Garnish with parsley or cilantro, if desired.
Is it me or is this season’s watermelon the best ever? Seriously, I can’t get enough of the tasty treat. Juicy and super-sweet…it’s like candy! Tom and I can devour an entire mini seedless melon in one sitting!
But when it comes to watermelon, apparently, I’m not very creative. At my house, watermelon is served one of two ways…in wedges or trimmed from the rind and cut into cubes. Period.
My friend, Sara, has completely changed that notion. On a hot, muggy day recently, Sara served a salad I’ll never forget…featuring—you got it—watermelon! In a large bowl, she whisked two tablespoons each olive oil and red wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt. To that she added three cups each cubed, seedless watermelon, sliced peaches and baby arugula; one-half cup packed basil leaves and ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped.
Meant to serve four, I think I gobbled down three servings myself! It was like a cool breeze for the palette! Sara’s salad is now in the recipe rotation at our house and now I’m on the lookout for other fun ways to enjoy watermelon.
Here are a few of the “wacky watermelon” recipes I’ve found. From now on, when it comes to watermelon, I’m thinking outside the rind!!
Grilled Chicken-Watermelon Tacos
Toss 2 c. chopped seedless watermelon; 1 jalapeno, minced; ½ sm. Red onion, minced; ¼ c. each lime juice and chopped cilantro; and ¼ tsp. salt. Serve on 8 (6-in.) warmed corn tortillas with 1lb. sliced grilled chicken and ½ c. crumbled Cotija cheese.
Feta-Watermelon Stacks (great for appetizers!)
Cut 1 sm. Seedless watermelon into 1-in. cubes (about 40) Top with 1 (1 –lb) block of feta cheese, cut into 1-in. squares (1/4 in. thick), and 1 c. basil leaves; secure with toothpicks. Transfer to platter; sprinkle with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper.
Frozen Watermelon Coolers
In lg. blender, puree (stopping often to tamp down solid ingredients with wooden spoon) 4 c. cubed seedless watermelon, frozen; 5 c. ice; 1 c. each raspberry sorbet and lime juice; and ½ c. confectioners’ sugar until thick and smooth. SO yummy!
No-Cook Watermelon “Cake” (a truly “wacky” watermelon recipe…but looks so cool!)
Slice 2 short ends off 1 lg. seedless watermelon so it sits flat; cut away rink to make cylinder (tricky part!) Transfer to cake stand. Frost with 2 (8-oz.) containers whipped topping. Top with berries and mint.
One more thing. Despite the popular notion that watermelon is made up of only water and sugar…watermelon is actually considered a nutrient-dense food, a food that provides a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for very few, guilt-free calories.
For more than thirty years, I’ve been blessed to be part of a great group of women… eight faithful, caring, fun-loving friends who also happen to take birthdays very seriously.
In fact, our “birthday group” boldly celebrates aging up with a lively luncheon for each lady - complete with fabulous food, crazy greeting cards, special gifts, lotsa laughs and gobs of gab!
I love those luncheons- until it’s my turn to host one.
You see, my friends are all highly skilled, domestic divas! Me? I would rather address a joint session of Congress than prepare lunch for eight. But with a sense of humor, a few short cuts, and encouraging friends, I somehow get through it.
This year, when my birthday rolled around, the “girls” surprised me with a gift that keeps on giving… a packet of recipes even I can’t screw up!
They gave me their easiest, tastiest, no-fail, favorite dishes and boy, has dinner taken a turn for the better around our house!
In the coming months, I’m going to share a few of these delicious dishes with you… starting with this incredible pasta recipe from Marlena Brown. Just toss all the ingredients in a big bowl. Then sit back and enjoy the oo’s and ah’s!!
Marlena’s Pesto Pasta
1 jar Classico Pesto (or any brand you choose. I like Buitoni. You’ll find it in the refrigerator section at Vons)
1 6-oz. jar of sundried tomatoes (no need to drain)
1 4-oz. jar of capers, drained
1 4-oz can sliced olives
1 ½ pounds chicken, cooked
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 lb. pasta, cooked (I love whole grain)
Toss ingredients together.
Take a bow!
Don’t I just have the best friends?! Stay tuned for Kendra Dawson’s awesome posole!!