Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's For Dinner: Italian Salad

Today I'm featuring a simple fresh salad to go with your fall dinners (we served it with butternut squash and baked chicken legs). I call it Italian Salad because it is similar to the one I sold as a deli clerk at Kroger's (many moons ago). This is a great way to use up tomatoes that are getting a little wrinkly and cucumbers that can't wait two more days to be used. This is what I did:

Recipe: Italian Salad

  • 1 cucumber, quartered and sliced (I used an English hothouse cucumber because I like to see cucumber skin and I don't like to wash the wax off; these are wrapped in thin plastic and not waxed)
  • 8-10 small tomatoes, quartered, then halved again (I used Campari cocktail tomatoes; they are the size of a golf ball)
  • 1/4 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (another item that needed to be used)
  • 1/4 cup Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In medium bowl, add cucumber, tomatoes, onion, red pepper and dressing. Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour. This can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days so you'll have fresh salad without fuss.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  86 calories, 1 gram protein, 6 grams fat, 7 grams carb, 2 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 60 milligrams sodium.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Healthy" Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

So how can a cookie be healthy? When whole wheat flour replaces some of the white, when it contains oats, and when it has half dark chocolate chips and half semi-sweet.  If you came to my house for a visit, these are the cookies I almost always have on hand.

This recipe is an adaptation of the oatmeal cookie recipe on the Quaker Oat box. It took a few tweaks to get it to the point where I am happy with the results.

Here's the reason why I thought I had better retype the recipe I actually use:

Can you read all those extra scribbles in the margins? Me neither. But I have the recipe memorized; I keep this old recipe cut from the box just in case I have a brain fart.

Anyway, here's what I really do:

Healthy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies       
  • 1-1/4  cups (2-1/2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened (I use one stick butter and the rest margarine)
  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 1  egg
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 3  cups Quaker® Oats, uncooked (I use “quick oats”)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (half 60 percent Bittersweet Ghirardelli dark and half Nestle Toll House chips)        
  • Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat margarine, butter and sugars until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. In separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda and salt; mix into sugar / margarine mixture. Add oats; mix well. Add chocolate chips, mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls (I use a one-tablespoon scoop) onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 10 minutes. Cool 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered and freeze.

Nutrition information per cookie: 128 calories, 1 gram protein, 7 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 9 milligrams cholesterol, 88 milligrams sodium

Friday, October 19, 2012

Q & A: What's Wrong with White?

Q.  I was told by my doctor to “avoid everything white”, but I’m not sure what that means. Can  you help? M.S. Grandville, MI

A.  I have never been a fan of simplistic advice, which seems to have multiplied with all the access to health and food/cooking shows on the TV.  Advice like this usually confuses more people than it helps. 

At least once a week, but usually more often, someone asks how to eat now that they aren’t allowed to eat white food. The person who gave the “no white food” advice hasn’t really thought through how people take that message. Believe me, very literal people will look at every white food as suspect. And others will assume that a whole grain “brown” food is so good for you that it doesn’t matter how much you eat of it. 

But wait a minute! What about other white foods? There are a number of white foods that are very good for you. Don’t believe me? Look at the partial list below, from the September/October 2012 issue of Diabetes Self-Management magazine:
  • White beans
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Flesh of bananas, apples and pears 

Please people, quit giving black-and-white advice about white food. There are usually exceptions and grey areas in most recommendations. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tidbits: Quick Acorn Squash

It's fall in Michigan and time for squash!

Acorn squash is a winter squash, meaning that it has a hard shell and can be stored for a month or more in a cool, dry place for later eating. Acorn squash has a medium yellow flesh, and contains some vitamin A (but if you're looking for lots of beta carotene/vitamin A, check out hubbard squash with over ten times the carotene, or butternut squash, with over 20 times the beta carotene. The darker orange the flesh, the more beta carotene it contains). Acorn squash also provides 110 calories per cup, 20 grams carb, 9 grams fiber, and 22 milligrams vitamin C.

Normally, it takes a little planning to have a fresh winter squash for dinner. The traditional way of preparing them is to wash the outside very well (they sit in the soil), carefully slice them in half, scoop out the seeds, and then season and bake for an hour or so at 350 degrees F.

If you don't have that much time, but want to have squash, here is a quick tip I learned from a farmer at the market last year.  Wash the acorn squash, poke it with a sharp knife in several places, then microwave on high for 15 minutes. Be sure to cook it on a glass pie plate or something similar so you can get this hot squash out of the microwave oven. Ask me how I know.

Now, slice the squash in half, scoop out the steaming seeds (save them for the squirrels). Season squash and eat. I microwaved the squash above, but finished baking it in the regular oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes because I like it to have a little brown color (and the chicken legs were lonely in the oven).