The headline on the recipe read “Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Bake.” The dish was among several on a page in one of those women’s magazines at my nail salon.
Eggplant doesn’t do much for me one way or another, so I nearly passed it by. Thankfully, I didn’t turn the page before taking a quick glance at the rest of the ingredients. Roasted tomatoes, bell pepper, basil pesto and Parmesan cheese mixed with whole wheat fusilli. Hmmm. It actually sounded pretty good as I ripped the recipe from the page. (With permission!) Not only that, it was super-easy…15 minutes prep time!
What the heck…a little eggplant wouldn’t kill me, right? Truth is, the health benefits of the eggplant are numerous since it contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals. I had no idea, but the vegetable that’s least vegetable-like, contains Nasunin, a phytonutrient that provides high concentrations of antioxidants and can protect against cell membrane damage and improve blood circulation.
The iron, calcium and fiber it provides are all essential parts of a balanced diet. And eggplant contains only 35 calories per cup. It has a hearty taste and texture similar to meat (maybe more like tofu?) and eating eggplant can be made enjoyable even for those with an aversion to consuming anything healthy. (Think eggplant parmigiana? Roasted eggplant?)
I did a Google search and the number of eggplant recipes is practically endless. I’d just like to leave you with one recipe that’s become part of the regular meal rotation at my house. It’s a great vegetarian option and trust me, you won’t even miss the meat!
Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Bake
1 lb. eggplant cut into cubes
1 lb. small tomatoes (2”diameter), halved
1 lg. red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
8 oz quinoa rotelle (ancient Harvest is good brand) or whole wheat fusilli (or any whole grain pasta of your liking)
¼ c. basil pesto (already made up in the refrigerator section at the grocery store)
4 Tbsp chopped, fresh basil
¼ c. finely grated Parmesan (I LOVE Parmesan, so double this ingredient!)
1. Heat broiler. Arrange eggplant, tomatoes (cut side up), bell pepper and onion on large baking sheet coated with olive oil spray. Coat vegetables with olive oil spray and season with ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Broil, stirring vegetables (except tomatoes) halfway through cooking, until tomatoes are slightly charred and giving up their juices and remaining vegetables are golden brown and tender…about 6 minutes for tomatoes and 18 minutes for eggplant, bell pepper and onion.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare pasta per package directions. Drain and toss in bowl with broiled vegetables, pesto and 2 Tbsp of the basil. Spoon into shallow baking dish (about 2 qt.) and top with cheese.
3. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp basil.
Enjoy this healthy and hearty version of comfort food with a salad and grainy bread.
I love it when Dana hosts our women’s Bible study. Her home is warm and welcoming. She has a cool dog and she makes the best, by far, pumpkin bread in the world.
Dana serves her signature sweet bread warm right from the oven in a cute, Bundt-style baking pan in the shape of a pumpkin. Martha Stewart would be proud.
Recently, as I let a second warm slice of pumpkin perfection melt in my mouth, I decided to ask Dana for the recipe. I figured it would be beyond my culinary skills…probably an old, family recipe involving double boilers, exotic spices and separated eggs.
Dana just smiled as she shared her “secret” recipe – three ingredients – one step. So simple, even I could dazzle my friends and family with pumpkin bread worthy of the Cooking Channel.
If you need to bring something sweet to a holiday gathering, consider whipping up Dana’s perfect pumpkin bread. It’s so simple; you won’t even have to write it down. But here it is just in case!
Dana’s Pumpkin Bread
1 Box Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix
Prepare according to the box recipe, but add ½ can of organic, canned pumpkin (also at Trader Joe’s) and a small tub of vanilla Greek yogurt.
Bake and eat. Consider it my gift to you!
Good eating and God’s blessings!
It was our first trip to Paris. So much to see and do…the Eiffel Tower…Notre Dam…the Louvre. Amazing!
But as Tom and I recently experienced our first trip to the “City of Light,” we quickly learned the main Parisian attraction isn’t a cathedral or museum. It’s the food! And for nine days, we made it our goal to taste it all.
We indulged in crepes, both savory and sweet, swimming in rich cheese and cream sauces – fresh, buttered baguettes stuffed with ham and Gruyere, buttery croissants slathered in orange marmalade and steaming cups of cappuccino with creamy, whole milk. (Don’t even think about insulting your French server by asking for non-fat!)
We literally ate our way through the streets of Paris. From curbside vendors and colorful sidewalk cafes to charming bistros with white tablecloths, we dined on steaming bowls of cheese-covered French onion soup, spaghetti bolognaise and melt-in-your moth beef bourguignon.
I won’t even begin to describe the delightfully decadent French desserts in this space. Words are completely insufficient. But I will say this much. Last night I dreamt about one of those divine desserts…the rich ice cream, whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce confection known as the “blanche dame.”
For the record, I didn’t work out one day. Oh well, when in France…
But the day of reckoning finally came back home as I stepped on the scale to assess
the damage. Unbelievably, the digital display indicated I had lost nearly a pound!
And then it hit me.
I’d just experienced a touch of what’s known as the French Paradox…the country’s low rate of coronary heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fat. It’s the basic premise of the popular diet book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” Author Mireille Guiliano advises eating only good food of very high quality, eat it in small portions and savor every bite.
And it fits our French dining experience to a tee. Rather than wolfing down a hastily prepared PB and J running out the door, our meals were not rushed. In fact, they were an event unto themselves…consumed slowly while visiting and sipping the local Bordeaux.
As Guiliano explains, “From chocolate to champagne, eat slowly, with all your senses, and make every dining experience pleasurable so you will be satisfied with smaller portions of delicious food. No food is off limits, only large portions. No counting calories, no skipping meals – just control what you eat.”
It truly is a paradox. Lean and fit, the French aren’t into low-fat, low-carb, low-taste and low-calorie. Their diet is full of flavor and high in satisfaction. (And the majority of Parisians don’t have cars. They walk as did we – often miles a day!)
When it comes to food, we could all learn a thing or two from our French brothers and sisters. With their low rate of obesity and cardiovascular disease, the French way may just be the way to go!
Like most of you health-conscious folks out there, I’ve done my best to make sure my diet includes a wide variety of leafy greens because they’re chock full of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.
I admit going green hasn’t always bee easy. But over time I’ve finally acquired a taste for arugula. I make my soups “super” by adding some Swiss chard. And despite a bitter battle, I’ve finally conquered my aversion to kale and frequently mix the dark, leafy green into my favorite salads. Pretty good effort, I’d say.
But just when I thought I’d gone green enough, a new leafy veggie has become the darling of the farmer’s market. Have you heard the buzz about the nutritional power of “mini greens?” According to the research, these seedlings are proving that good things can come in extremely small packages.
I first ran across the news about mini greens in “O” magazine…then checked it out for myself. Turns out, according to the USDA, when harvested at just seven to 14 days old, these pint-size leaves can be far more nutrient-dense than their full-grown counterparts.
Studies show plants use stored nutrients to grow, so plucking the tiny seedlings early means they still have high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just keep in mind, says one study, that these “mini-me’s” lack the fiber found in mature plants, so they should supplement the greens you already eat…not replace them.
For all you fashionable foodies out there, here’s more good news about teensy greens. Thanks to the concentrated flavor of these diminutive standouts, they can elevate meals in taste as well as nutrition.
Give these a try:
This fragrant green contains 11 times more lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients that can reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related vision loss) than the same amount of mature cilantro.
Micro Red Cabbage
These slightly bitter, heart-shaped leaves outshine full-grown cabbage with roughly 260 times the beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A that can help protect eyesight) and more than 40 times the vitamin E.
Micro Purple Mustard Greens
Just four ounces of these greens meet your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C (75 milligrams). Another perk: these greens may be among the tastiest, due to their spicy zing.
Micro Green Daikon Radish
These sharp, spicy leaves are vitamin E superstars, boasting 165 percent of your RDA per ounce – helping to shore up your immune system and protect tissues and organs from damage caused by free radicals. By contrast, mature leaves contain only trace amounts of the antioxidant.
Micro Garnet Amaranth (this one’s new to me!)
Light red with an earthy, floral flavor… micro garnet amaranth ranks highest in vitamin K among micro greens (with more than 3 ½ times the amount in mature amaranth). Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and may reduce the risk of bone fractures.
I’m not exactly the queen of the kitchen, but I’m thinking if I adorn my next salad with nutrient-dense mini cilantro, would it be OK to can the kale?!
You all know I’m no Martha Stewart, so there’s no use pretending. When asked recently to bring a side dish to a backyard barbecue, I admit…I picked up some potato salad at a grocery store deli.
While transferring my store-bought salad to a plastic serving bowl, I couldn’t help but notice the little chunks of potato literally swimming in gooey dressing. Yuk! Not very healthy (and probably not very tasty either.)
I debated getting out my Mom’s famous potato salad recipe and whipping up a batch. But while her famous recipe is delicious, it, too, is loaded with rich, heavy dressing.
Growing up in the Midwest, summers meant burgers on the grill and classic cookout favorites like coleslaw, bean salad and, of course, potato salad. I still love a traditional barbecue buffet!
I just need some updated recipes with fewer calories, less fat…AND plenty of flavor.
My search led me to several classic cookout side dishes that have undergone healthy makeovers and they’re delicious! (Easy, too!) Next time you’re asked to bring a “side,” give one of these a try. (Beats the grocery deli every time!)
6 Tbsp chopped red onion
4 Tbsp wine vinegar
4 oz. thin green beans, trimmed
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 c shelled, cooked edamame (about 10oz), thawed, if frozen
1 can (15 oz) dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1. Combine onion with 3 Tbsp of the vinegar in small bowl and let stand 15 minutes to pickle. Cook green beans in boiling, salted water until tender, 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and cut into thirds.
2. Whisk together mustard, honey, oil and remaining 1 Tbsp vinegar in large bowl. Stir in pickled onion mixture.
3. Add cooked green beans, edamame, kidney beans and chickpeas. Toss together until well combined. Season to taste.
New Potato Salad
1½ lb. new potatoes
3 ½ Tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp finely chopped shallot or onion
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon.
2 lg. hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lg. rib celery, chopped
1. Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. When potatoes are just cool enough to handle (but still warm) cut into quarters.
2. Whisk together vinegar and mustard in large bowl while potatoes are cooling. Add oil in slow stream, whisking until well combined. Stir in shallot and tarragon. Immediately add warm potatoes, tossing to combine.
3. Add eggs and celery and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Makes 4 cups.)
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz. fresh coleslaw mix (about 3 cups)
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1 bell pepper, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp poppy seed, toasted (optional)
1. Whisk together vinegar, lime juice and honey in large bowl. Add oil in slow stream, whisking to combine.
2. Add remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Cover and chill at least 1 hour to let flavors develop. (Makes about 6 cups.)
Planning a backyard barbecue bash? Break out the burgers…just make sure you have an option for your beef-less friends!
Turkey burgers are a great, healthful alternative to beef, but frankly, they can be a bit bland. Even worse, the so-called “better” burgers are often so full of bread and other binders, you can end up loading up on carbs and empty calories rather than enjoying a healthy, high-protein, low-fat meal.
I find most prepared burgers disappointing, so I’ve been on the lookout for a turkey burger recipe I can make at home that’s healthy, delicious and not the least bit boring! The winner? A boffo burger with a little Greek influence. I tried it out on husband, Tom and got a big “thumbs-up!” Let me know what you think.
CAROL’S TASTY TURKEY BURGER
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
¼ c. 2% plain Greek-style yogurt
2 Tbsp. chopped scallions
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 lb ground organic turkey breast
¼ c coarsely chopped pitted green olives
2 oz feta, crumbled
1 tsp. Greek seasoning
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split and toasted
4 sm leaves butter lettuce
8 sm slices tomato
8 thin slices red onion
1. Stir together yogurt, scallions, and 2 tsp of the lemon juice in small bowl. Set aside.
2. Mix together turkey, olives, feta, Greek seasoning and remaining 2 Tbsp lemon juice until just combined. Form into 4 patties.
3. Prepare lightly oiled grill for medium heat. Grill patties, turning until golden brown and cooked through (internal temperature 165 degrees F), about 12 minutes
4. Serve burgers on buns with lettuce, tomato, onion and yogurt sauce.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
Growing up, Mom fixed asparagus for dinner…a lot. My Dad loved the green, veggie spears, so it was a mainstay in our diet. “Eat your asparagus,” Dad demanded. “It’s good for you.”
That may have been true. But I hated the nasty, green vegetable. When no one was looking, my portion often went to our poor, dog, Chuckie. (That dog would eat anything. Once, he ate the entire Easter ham!)
I can’t tell you exactly when my relationship with asparagus changed, but today I absolutely love the versatile vegetable packed with nutrition. Maybe, like Brussels sprouts, asparagus is just an acquired taste. But I think the difference is in the preparation.
For the record, my Mom was an excellent cook. However, like every other Midwestern homemaker, Mom boiled her asparagus in water and butter until there was nothing left but green, stringy mush.
Not until I was an adult did I get a taste of this ancient vegetable prepared al dente, or better still, roasted, parboiled or fresh in a salad. I’ve been hooked on my former vegetable nemesis ever since!
The more I learn about the amazing asparagus, the more I love it!
Did you know the name for asparagus – a member of the lily family comes from the Greek word meaning “shoot” or “sprout?” Now widely cultivated throughout the world, this regal vegetable is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it was prized for its unique texture and alleged medicinal and aphrodisiacal qualities. (How’s that for a health bonus?!)
Asparagus spears grow from a crown planted in sandy soils and, under ideal conditions, can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period! The most common types are green, but you might see two others in stores, farmer’s markets and restaurants: white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier.
This giant veggie is also a nutritional rock star – high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin and vitamins A, B6 and C. A 5-ounce serving provides 60 percent of the RDA for folic acid and is low in calories.
‘Tis the season for asparagus, so pick up a couple of bunches. Enjoy it raw or with minimal preparation, which the Romans seemed to appreciate. They had a saying to describe something done rapidly, “As quick as cooking asparagus!” (Sorry Mom!)
Here’s a simple, tasty and nutritious asparagus recipe I think you’ll enjoy. Perfect for a warm, summer evening!
Spring Asparagus and White Bean Salad
3 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 lb)
1 ½ cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
5 thinly sliced radishes
½ cup (2 oz) crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1. Steam asparagus, covered, 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.
2. Rinse asparagus with cold water and drain.
3. Gently combine asparagus, beans radishes, feta, shallot and fresh mint in a serving bowl.
4. Make dressing by combining lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine.
5. Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and toss gently to coat.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.
Pucker up and enjoy the health benefits of the lowly lemon!
Most married couples fight over things such as finances, how to raise the kids and control of the TV remote. Not Tom and me. No sir. We argue about lemons.
My love of lemons has caused a scene in plenty of restaurants. It starts as soon as the server delivers the water. Tom begins to squirm and I make my request for lemon slices – as many as he or she can carry or is allowed to give out without getting fired. And it’s not just water. I go for lotsa lemon in hot tea, iced tea, Pelligrino, tonic water, diet Coke and yes…lemonade.
I know my lemon obsession drives poor Tom crazy. (He winds up having to tip extra for the hassle!) But I can’t help myself. I love lemons.
From lemon drops to lemon bars, my love affair with lemons actually began in childhood. I was the only kid on the block who could peel a lemon and eat it just like an orange! Talk about sour power! Instead of cake, my Mom would bake me a birthday lemon meringue pie. You get the picture.
So when a friend sent me one of those e-mail forwards about the near miraculous health powers of lemons, not only was I intrigued, I felt vindicated. According to the blog, the lowly lemon could reverse the aging process, cure cancer and more!
There was just one problem. With no real science to back up the outlandish claims, it just didn’t pass the smell test. After clicking “delete,” I went online to some reputable health websites and got the real low-down on the lowly lemon.
Turns out, a little lemon can go a long way to improving your health! In fact, many health benefits from the sour citrus fruit have been known for centuries. Lemons have strong antibacterial, antiviral and immune-boosting powers and are used as a weight loss aid because lemon juice cleans the liver and aids in digestion.
Lemons contain many substances notably citric acid, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, pectin and limonene – all of which promote immunity and fight infection.
I was fascinated to learn that lemons actually help balance your pH level. Though acidic to the taste, lemons are alkaline-forming on the body. (That explains why I’m sensitive to OJ…but lemon juice is no problem!)
The citric acid in lemons can also help eliminate calcium deposits in the arteries as well as pancreatic and kidney stones.
While green juices and fresh smoothies should still feature in your daily diet, the real super beverage may just be water with freshly squeezed lemon. And it’s so easy. At home. At your favorite eatery. Pull out your pucker face and pop a few lemon wedges in your drink. (Just don’t let Tom catch you pestering your server!)
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
Spring may be in the air, but summer is just around the corner and that means swimsuit season is upon us. (At my age, it’s actually become more like capris and T-shirt season!) But whatever stage of undress you plan to display this summer, now’s the time to start paring down and tightening up.
Exercise is a great start, but eating right can get you to your goal weight faster than anything.
Like you, I hate, HATE dieting, but love little nutrition “tricks” that help maintain my weight without embarking on some cumbersome, complicated diet “program.”
Fortunately, some foods can actually help you fight fat! I’ve been “sneaking” some of these slimming super foods into my diet lately and already last year’s capri’s are feeling a little looser!
Perhaps these fat-fighting foods can help you look your best no matter what you plan to wear this summer!
1. Chili powder This spicy powder contains capsinoids, which burn belly fat. When volunteers in a 2009 study popped 6 grams of capsinoid oil a day, they lost five times as much fat as those who did not.
2. Grapefruit When volunteers ate half a grapefruit before every meal in a University of Arizona study, they shaved an inch off their waists, thanks to naringenin, which experts say may help burn fat.
3. Nonfat ricotta Muscle loss as you age can tank your metabolism. Made from whey protein, ricotta can enhance muscle building and metabolism.
4. Bell peppers Vitamin C is an unsung weight loss weapon, and one bell pepper provides twice your daily dose.
5. Romaine lettuce Filling up with a leafy green can trim the overall number of calories you eat by 10 percent; two cups of romaine rack up half your daily fill of Vitamin A, plus 11.3 percent of bone-building Vitamin K.
6. Nuts Their satisfying trifecta of protein, healthy fat and fiber can help you slim down. To slow your intake, choose nuts in their shells.
7. Melon Satisfy your sweet tooth by spooning a thick slice from the rind for just 45 calories.
8. Canned salmon Protein requires more calories to digest and keeps you feeling full. With nearly 17 grams of it per three ounces, salmon makes getting your fill of protein a breeze. (If, like me, you just can’t do canned salmon go for a small can of nice, light, white albacore tuna!)
9. Edamame Packed with an intelligent combo of protein, healthy fat and fiber, these pods are guaranteed to keep you full and satisfied for hours.
10. Dark chocolate (yes!) chips These flavor bombs put the brakes on a craving. The little pieces fool you into thinking you’re getting more, helping you eat less, finds new research.
So, fire up for swimsuit season by filling up on these fun, fat-fighting foods.
See you at the beach!
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
For decades, Tom and I frequented a cute café in Coronado called “Stretch’s….” an eclectic little eatery on Orange Avenue known for it’s huge, fresh salads. My favorite was a combo plate with an array of greens, assortment of fruit and homemade chicken salad.
But the best part was the thick slice of freshly baked banana bread that came with the salad. In all my life I’ve never tasted banana bread that good. Just writing about it makes me salivate!
But alas, the recipe for the sensational sweet bread was “Stretch’s” secret. Fortunately, I could order a loaf or two for special occasions. When it was my turn to bring snacks for my couple’s group, Bible study or girlfriend brunch, “Stretch’s” fantastic bread would be gobbled up. All I had to do was enjoy the compliments!
Sadly, “Stretch’s” was sold last year and today a new restaurant has taken over the space. Boy, I miss that warm, moist banana bread.
By chance, I recently ran into the former owner of “Stretch’s,” Vicki Jones. Vicki was also responsible for baking their famous banana bread…fresh and warm every morning for years. After exchanging pleasantries, I told Vicki how much I missed her famous bread.
Vicki quickly found a piece of paper and began writing. It took a minute for me to figure out she was giving me the “secret” recipe for her mouth-watering banana bread! Oh, joy! “Don’t worry,” Vicki smiled. “It’s not a secret anymore.”
Vicki also said it was okay to share her secret with you. So here it is…the recipe for the best darn banana bread in the universe! Enjoy!
Vicki’s Banana Bread
Mix in Kitchen Aid:
2 cups sugar
½ lb. margarine
4 large bananas
Mix until appears curdled
Add: 2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
Mix until well blended (2-3 minutes)
Pour into greased loaf pan
Spread ¼ cup brown sugar on top
Cover half with walnuts
Bake at 375 for 55-60 minutes
I think it’s the brown sugar and walnuts that make it so special. Give it a try. And when it’s your turn to bring snacks, you’ll be a hero!
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.