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Fishing for a Longer Life: Learn What Eating More Fish Can Do for You – and Enjoy This Delicious, Heart Healthy Recipe

July 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Food & Recipes, Health & Fitness, Wellness

Fishing For Life

Once again, we bring you a healthful and tasty article from guest author Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, who is a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert, as well as the National Association of Baby Boomer Women’s Heart Healthy Lifestyle Expert. She frequently serves as a  nutrition and health spokesperson on national television, radio and is often quoted in print.

Brill specializes in cardiovascular disease prevention. Her first book, Cholesterol Down: Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs has been widely endorsed. You can learn more about her on her here: www.drjanet.com.

Fishing for a Longer Life: Learn What Eating More Fish Can Do for You – and Enjoy This Delicious, Heart Healthy Recipe

by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN
It’s called the “Eskimo factor.”

As early as 1944, scientists began to document that Greenland Eskimos had virtually no heart disease. This phenomenon occurred despite the fact that the Eskimos ate a diet low in fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. But what they did subsist on was a diet loaded with oily seafood such as whale and seal meat — providing the Eskimos with a huge daily dose of fish oil (about 15 grams), rich in the superbly heart-healthy marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Eating fish is key to heart health because it is human beings’ primary source of the cardio-protective fatty acids known to enhance human health: the twin polyunsaturated, or “long-chain” omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Studies show that people who eat a fish-rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and have a greater longevity.
Salmon and other seafood is one of the eight key food groups – along with extra virgin olive oil, leafy greens, figs and other fruits, lentils and other legumes, walnuts and flaxseeds, oatmeal and other whole grains, and red wine — that are part my plan (detailed in Prevent a Second Heart Attack) to reverse heart disease, or build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. Dark chocolate is a bonus food in this plan. Yeah!

Omega-3 fish fat can protect against heart disease by targeting the three key areas of heart disease vulnerability, medically termed the “trilogy of vulnerability:”

  • Vulnerable Plaque — the root cause of most heart attacks
  • Vulnerable Heart Muscle — prone to electrical disturbances of the heart (arrhythmias); and
  • Vulnerable Blood — prone to form blood clots.

Daily intake of fish fat can boost your heart disease defense system by:

  • Decreasing progression of and stabilizing vulnerable plaque
  • Reducing your risk of sudden death by protecting against arrhythmias
  • Lowering your triglyceride level
  • Fighting inflammation
  • And thinning your blood, omega-3 fats make platelets less likely to stick together and form clots

One additional advantage of frequent consumption of fish in lieu of other types of animal protein is that fish is the perfect diet food –loaded with protein but low in saturated fat and calories. Hence, eating your seafood prescription will also help you control your weight, and being overweight is another major risk factor that ups your odds of a heart attack.

Here Are a Few Ideas to Help You Increase Your Consumption of Healthy Seafood:

  • Go to your local fish monger and be sure to buy really fresh fish — fish that doesn’t have a fishy smell. Don’t be shy about asking to smell the fish before purchasing. I buy fish that’s right off the boat — in bulk — take it home, cut it into individual servings, wrap in wax paper, label, and freeze.
  • If you eat out, frequent a steak house, where you can almost always find salmon or a tuna steak on the menu. Just be sure to order it grilled and simply dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
  • Consider a can of water-packed albacore tuna served over your greens for lunch with olive oil vinaigrette — instead of a sandwich of cold cuts.
  • Contrary to popular belief, both deep-sea cold water fish and freshwater fish from cold waters (such as lake herring, lake trout, and whitefish) are good sources of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Buy them fresh or frozen; bake, grill, or broil and not deep-fry the fish for maximum heart health benefits.
  • Use of seafood as your protein source of choice is a superbly heart-healthy strategy. You may be surprised at how delicious simply prepared, fresh fish can be. Chef Mario Spina’s Grilled Swordfish, Chef Kern Mattei’s Steamed Red Snapper with Black Bean Sauce, and Chef Julie Korhumel’s Steamed Halibut and Fresh Vegetables in Parchment Paper and Chef Keith Blauschild’s Tuna Romesco are some the delicious recipes in Prevent a Second Heart Attack that feature fish and are sure to please the palate.

__________________________________

Chef Keith Blauschild’s Tuna Romesco
A meaty tuna steak topped with a fresh, spicy, almond-studded tomato sauce.

Four 6-ounce tuna steaks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 plum tomato, cut in half and seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Season tuna with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to cook. Roughly chop the tomato. In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and almonds and sauté until the garlic turns golden but not too brown. Add the plum tomato, sun-dried tomato, roasted red pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the tomato is soft. Let cool. Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Remove to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and parsley. To cook the tuna, spray the fillets lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Heat a nonstick skillet or grill to high heat. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness and desired degree of doneness.

Serves 4

NUTRITION per 6-ounce tuna and 1/4 cup sauce:
Calories: 285
Fat: 10 g (< 1 g EPA, < 1 g DHA, <1 g ALA)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 77 mg
Sodium: 307 mg
Carbohydrate: 6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 2 g
Protein: 43 g

As Valentine’s Day Approaches, Here’s Word On the Sweet Science Behind Dark Chocolate, a Great Recipe for Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts & Two Heart-healthy Books

January 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Food & Recipes, Health & Fitness

 As Valentine’s Day Approaches, the Sweet Science Behind Dark Chocolate

Dr Janet BrillToday’s guest author is Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert. She frequently serves as a  nutrition and health spokesperson on national television, radio and is often quoted in print.

Brill specializes in cardiovascular disease prevention. Her first book, Cholesterol Down: Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs has been widely endorsed.

Her new book, Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease, was inspired by her father’s death at a fairly young age (69) from his second heart attack, and by her husband, whose heart attack at age 51 made her look very closely at what could be done to make a difference in his life. Dr. Brill lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.

The Sweet Science Behind Dark Chocolate: What Eating Dark Chocolate Can Do for You

by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN

Dark chocolate — with a high content of nonfat cocoa solids — is the new guilt-free super food! The scientific evidence is stacking up linking daily consumption of deep, dark chocolate with phenomenal health benefits, especially on your heart and blood vessels.

Studies show that people who eat generous amounts of superbly-heart-healthy and flavonoid-rich cocoa rarely develop high blood pressure and have a very low death rate from heart disease.

Eating dark chocolate is key to heart health because it is loaded with powerful plant antioxidants called flavonoids.

That is why is it included as a bonus in a plan I developed to reverse heart disease, and/or to build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. My full program is detailed in “Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease. Valentine Chocolate

The eight key food groups that form the core of my plan are:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Leafy greens
  • Figs and other fruits
  • Salmon and other seafood
  • Lentils and other legumes
  • Walnuts and flaxseeds
  • Oatmeal and other whole grains
  • Red wine

Eating your daily sweet treat will make a significant contribution to the antioxidant potential of your diet, as dark chocolate has a higher antioxidant quality/quantity than most heavy hitters — red wine, black tea, and green tea.

Consumption of the dark, flavonoid-rich type of chocolate can improve your blood vessel health by increasing your endothelium’s production of that crucial blood vessel relaxation chemical nitric oxide, rendering your dysfunctional endothelium (the damaged inner arterial layer that instigates and promotes heart disease progression) healthier and more functional.
In fact, research shows that consuming a small daily dark chocolate treat reduces inflammation and promotes more relaxed and dilated blood vessels, especially if you’re diabetic.

To sum it up, consuming just one or two squares (up to one ounce) of dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa) every day can help:

  • Boost your blood antioxidant level
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Make your dysfunction endothelium more functional
  • Fight inflammation

Here are a few ideas to eat chocolate daily — for you and your heart.

  • Try a nightly cup of steaming, decadent homemade hot chocolate. Put 2 heaping spoonfuls of dark chocolate natural unsweetened cocoa powder into a mug, add a touch of sweetener (you might consider a sugar substitute), and mix together with soy milk and microwave. Top with fat-free whipped topping and you have a delicious, chocolaty, super-heart-healthy sweet treat.
  • Remember, to satisfy your chocolate craving and fortify your heart disease defense strategy simultaneously, think real cocoa. Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has the highest concentration of flavanols compared to other chocolate products (followed by unsweetened baking chocolate), plus is low in sugar, fat and calories, so favor this chocolate choice over solid bars when possible. And don’t forget that milk chocolate and chocolate syrup rank lowest on the antioxidant scale, so avoid choosing them for your heart-healthy chocolate splurge.
  • Look for dark chocolate products derived from single-origin countries or areas. Note that Madagascar and Java cacao beans have been shown to contain double the flavanols compared to beans from other areas.
  • If you prefer a small piece of chocolate, purchase one of the new high-flavonoid chocolate bars (not milk chocolate or Dutch processed) — at least 70 percent cocoa, and limit yourself to one to two small pieces a day. Be sure to check the ingredients list and choose a bar where the first ingredient is cocoa solids or chocolate (not sugar) such as Lindt® Excellence 70% Cocoa Bar.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of dark cocoa powder to your banana and soy milk smoothie — a luscious addition to a heart-healthy drink.

Isn’t this the best nutrition news to come along in decades? Try my Quick, Healthy (and sinfully satisfying) Dark Hot Chocolate (see above) and my Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts (see below).

So this Valentine’s Day or any day, enjoy your chocolate…just make sure it is dark chocolate in the appropriate quantity only. It isn’t so hard when you remember that a healthy heart is the best treat of all.

Dr. Janet’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts

Serves 16 — A dark, moist chocolaty treat.

    One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
    3/4 cup packed Splenda ® Brown Sugar Blend
    1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
    1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoons ground flax seed
    1 tablespoon espresso powder
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place black beans in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, oats, cocoa powder, olive oil, espresso powder, flax seed, vanilla, and salt. With an electric mixer blend the ingredients until the black beans are mushed up and the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape batter into the prepared pan, top with walnuts, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the middle of the brownies is firm. Let cool before slicing into 16 pieces.

NUTRITION PER SERVING (1 brownie):

Calories: 140
Fat: 6 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, 1 g ALA)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Sodium: 89 mg
Carbohydrate: 16 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: <1 g
Protein: 3 g

Excerpted with permission from Prevent a Second Heart Attack by Janet Bond Brill ©2/2011.

Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, is a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert. She is the author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack and Cholesterol Down: Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs. Learn more at www.drjanet.com

Great News! Grab Your Forks and Napkins Because Now Many of Your Favorite Comfort Foods Are Still On the Menu, Even If You’re Newly Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

Health Comfort Foods - For Real!

Cool Weather and Comfort Food: You Know It’s Coming, Don’t You?

It’s hard to miss the signs here in the heart of the Midwestern United States.  No doubt the same thing is happening all over the northern hemisphere. With the advent of cooler days, longer nights, football in the stadiums and autumnal color on the trees, it’s time to think about serving up a slew of your favorite cool weather comfort foods for dinner.

(Sorry for talking “fall weather” to you readers in the southern hemisphere, especially those of you in Australia and New Zealand. I know it’s springtime for you… But keep reading,  you won’t want to miss the book I discuss  at the end of the post…)

No Doubt You Have an All-time Favorite Hearty and Comforting Meal

When it comes to comfort foods, my favorite – hands down – is a fabulous beef pot roast, complete with potatoes, carrots, onions, and maybe some green beans.  All slow-cooked or stewed in a delicious tomato-based beefy gravy.  Served with homemade biscuits on the side…  With perhaps a nice hot apple cobbler for dessert.

I’ve always loved preparing this meal for my husband and family, but lately I’ve discovered that it’s a meal your dinner dinner guests probably crave as well.

You wouldn’t believe how many friends and business associates give me major hints that they’d love to be invited over next time I’m serving this up.  These days I’m not afraid to serve it up for company.  Try it! You’ll be amazed at the compliments this homey meal will earn you!

But pot roast isn’t the only star when it comes to favorite comfort foods. Yours might be something else. Perhaps, as the Fall season comes upon us, you find yourself craving one of these other delicious treats:

These Are All Delicious Options

But did you know they they can be healthy choices, too? That’s really good news. Especially so if you’re newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, right?

Healthy choices? Before you got to that last sentence, you were probably crossing your arms, shaking your finger, and giving me the hex sign, right? I know, I know.  If you’re just learning how to live with diabetes, yo’ve probably taken a look at your newly imposed carbohydrate limitations  and decided these delicious favorite dishes are history. Meals that are forever relegated to your “forbidden foods” list…

Good news! The fact is that with just a few — mostly minor — changes to your preparation techniques, you CAN still enjoy these favorite meals. This week’s issue of Diabetic Living Weekly Newsletter is chock full of articles complete with delicious recipes, including “14 Comfort Foods Made Healthy.”

The link takes you to a great slide show-style post, complete with photos, recipes and all the nutrition facts and diabetic exchanges you need.

(If you haven’t yet made acquaintance with this resource, I suggest you check it out right away!)

Just click the link and prepare to start enjoying two week’s worth of  “legal” comfort foods, OK?

But Wait! Are You Looking For Even More  Recipes That Are Both Delicious and Diabetic-friendly?

  • Maybe you’d like to see some diabetic-friendly yet comforting desserts? Like a carrot cake? Or maybe cheese cake?
  • Or perhaps you need recipes that are also gluten-free or low-glycemic?
  • You’re in luck! Here’s an amazing recipe resource I’ve just discovered:  Fun With Gluten-Free Low-Glycemic Food!

This amazing cookbook is by Debbie Johnson, the former owner and executive chef of The Golden Chalice Restaurant & Gallery, in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

Debbie’s mind-boggling claim to fame is that she offered her hungry Golden Chalice clientele delicious food — without telling them that everything on the menu was 100% gluten-free, sugar-free, low-glycemic, organic and allergy-friendly.

  • Many of her guests ate the food and thoroughly enjoyed it – without realizing just how healthy it was.
  • Those who came because they had challenges with their diets would look up at the servers and say things like, “You mean I can eat anything on this menu, anything?”
  • The server would smile and say,  “Yes, you can eat anything you like.”
  • And why not? Debbie’s recipes are delicious and chock-full of healthy fruits and veggies, legumes and certain nuts and seeds, especially sprouted nuts and seeds.

As a Hungry Person with Special Food Needs, Can You Imagine How Amazing It Would Be to Be Able to East ANYTHING on the menu?

Debbie notes: “Our entire restaurant was geared to people with food and environmental sensitivities of all kinds, yet we didn’t advertise the fact on our signage. So locals came in and thought we were just a fine gourmet restaurant. Who wouldn’t? our menu offered only the freshest, organic, foods that were rich, flavorful, and delicious. Desserts were always a must at The Golden Chalice, they were just hard to resist.”

Now You Can Enjoy Debbie’s Amazing Golden Chalice Recipes at Home

The recipes in Debbie’s amazing ebook (yes, you can download it and start checking out the recipes instantly, no waiting for shipping!) are not only delicious but they are helpful for people with everything from allergies, celiac disease and diabetes to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). And, every recipe contains “healing” food of some type. Not to mention that they are more alkaline.

Perhaps these recipes will become your new definition of Comfort Foods. After all, these recipes are:

  • Delicious
  • Easy to digest, and
  • Leave you feeling both full and energized.

Isn’t that the very definition of comforting?

If you’d like to take a look at one of these great recipes, here’s a gluten-free favorite: Golden Chalice Carrot Cake.

One Last Thing: What’s The Deal With “Alkaline” Foods?

Debbie says her recipes are “more alkaline, ” which might not be a term you’re familiar with.

On the other hand, perhaps you’re aware that some nutritionists are now recommending we all enjoy a more alkaline diet in order to prevent cancer and other diseases? It’s a concept that’s controversial and perhaps still a bit “out-there,” but it’s been getting a lot of attention recently. To help explain what alkaline foods are all about, here’s a clip from CBS News that explains it for you:

In closing: Fun With Gluten-Free Low-Glycemic Food! is a cookbook for people who love delicious food but don’t want to get sick eating it!

Whether or not you decide to subscribe to an alkaline diet, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the recipes. And why wouldn’t you? After all, the book’s title says it all: Fun With Gluten-Free Low-Glycemic Food!

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Now That You’ve Rounded Up Your Waffle Iron and Whetted Your Appetite, Weren’t You Wishing You Could Serve Those Yummy Restaurant-style Sourdough Waffles at Home?

January 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Food & Recipes

Ready for Sourdough Waffles?

Yesterday, when writing about waffles and those cool “flip style” waffle makers so many motels now feature in their breakfast rooms — the ones that produce those really crispy, thick Belgian waffles — I also started thinking about the waffle batter they provide for those ubiquitous free continental breakfasts…

If you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy those hotel waffles, you know the batter is generally provided in Styrofoam cups, which conveniently measure out the appropriate amount of batter for one waffle. And the batter is a thick, bubbly, yeasty concoction, redolent of sourdough

I Used to Suspect it Wasn’t Really Truly Sourdough Batter

But I’ve changed my mind, now that I’ve just read that sourdough starter can actually be frozen.  That makes sense, as it’d make daily setup pretty easy for the motel management…)

Meanwhile, as I was thinking about how I might be able to bring you a recipe for THOSE exact waffles, I searched the deep recesses of my brain, and came up with a memory that’s an “oldie but goodie” from my “earth mother days of yore”… Maybe you remember it too?

It’s “Herman!”

Yep. Herman was that sourdough starter everyone shared with their friends, back in the 70s. If you’re a true Baby Boomer, you’ve either nurtured your very own batch of Herman – possibly for years – or you’ve dined on “friendship bread,” bread, pizza, coffeecake or pancakes made with a Herman sourdough starter.

Because the thing is, once you accepted a Herman starter, you were pretty much committed to feeding your Herman, and keeping it going.

Good thing I’ve lost track of Chris B., the dear friend who gave me my Herman starter eons ago, when we were both young women recently transplanted to Iowa. I’d hate to have to tell her I lost track of it over twenty years ago! (Then again, she probably doesn’t have hers anymore, either!!)

Think About That “Sourdough Starter” Process For a Moment… If You Recall, It Required Regular Attention:

  • Most sourdough (and Herman) recipes required one cup of “fed” sourdough starter.
  • Which meant you had to plan ahead, to get the starter “fed” and keep it growing.
  • So, up to twelve hours before beginning a recipe – essentially the night before – you’d stir the starter and remove your cup of bubbly goodness.
  • The cup you removed was what you would use to make your product.
  • Then you added more flour and water to the remaining starter, to replace what you’d removed.
  • And the starter required maintenance, so if you weren’t going to bake something with the starter, your alternative was to give it to a friend, or throw it away…
  • However you did it, your goal was to get rid of one cup of starter on a regular basis — at least once a month — so you could feed the rest and keep it lively without ending up with a house full of yeasty-smelling starter.
  • Remember?

The Whole Sourdough Tending Process Sort of Reminds Me of Child-rearing…

But, like raising kids, it’s all worth it if you have a good starter. And the amazing thing is, there are actually people who are fortunate enough to have access to 150 year old sourdough starter. Which takes us back to the heyday of sourdough, the Gold Rush days!

If you’d like to make sourdough waffles and you don’t have access to any historic sourdough starter, here’s a recipe for making your own. This isn’t “Herman,” which is a sweeter and more “tempermental” starter that includes milk and a fair amount of sugar… But this is a good basic sourdough starter:

Sourdough Starter

INGREDIENTS

2 cups warm water, separated (water you’ve used to boil potatoes is traditional, but tap water works fine)
1 tablespoon fresh active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups unbleached flour (separated)

Pour 1 cup warm water (105°-115°, no more) into a non-metal or glass bowl or jar,  sprinkle yeast over it, mix, and let stand a few minutes until yeast dissolves. Add the sugar and 1 cup of flour. Mix. Let the starter sit on the counter (room temperature of 70-80° F) for 5 days (uncovered, or draped with cheesecloth, if you can’t stand to leave it completely uncovered). Your goal with leaving this out is to allow the natural yeasts that exist in the air get into the yeast sponge. Stir this mixture daily. When ready, the mixture will be bubbly and a little frothy, and smell nicely sour. If bubbles have not started forming after 24 hours, though, start again. Your water may have been too hot, or your yeast not fresh and active. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

On the 5th day feed the starter with the remaining cup of flour and water.

Stir and loosely cover the starter again.

Your starter will be ready to use on the 6th day.

Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter:

  • Once you have successfully prepared the sourdough bread starter recipe, store it in the refrigerator, loosely covered, in your jar or other non-metal container. (They make crocks just for sourdough starter.)
  • Replace the amount of starter you use. Most recipes call for 1 cup of starter; replenish it by adding 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup warm water to the remaining starter. Return it to the refrigerator. Should you need more starter, add the flour and water first, and let it ferment for 24 hours, (or at least for 12 hours).
  • Sooner or later a dark liquid will collect atop your starter. This is called the hooch. Just stir it in. It’s a good thing.

Sourdough starter can be refrigerated indefinitely, but works best if you get it out and use some of it periodically, while you feed the rest.

And why not? That’s what you made if for, right?

Parting Thoughts:

  • Now that you have a recipe for sourdough starter, here’s a link to a sourdough waffle recipe, which comes from King Arthur Flour.
  • Be sure to check out this post, as it has loads of great photos, to make the whole sourdough waffle-making process really easy for you!
  • If you’re a Food Network fan, here’s a link to  video with Alton Brown talking about his method for making waffles
  • And a final link, to Alton’s preferred machine for making waffles. (Gotta love that Alton Brown!) 

Coming Up in My Next Recipe Post: Loads of Ways to Showcase Your New Sourdough Skills

Time to Heat Things Up, Make a Stand for Pure Goodness: “Waffling” May Be Poor Politics, But Who Can’t Love the Chef Who Serves Up Waffles for Breakfast, Brunch – or Dinner?

January 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Food & Recipes

Crispy Homemade waffles: What's not to love?

I don’t know about you, but I love serving making and serving waffles at our weekend brunches – about as much as my husband and guests love devouring them! Don’t get me wrong, pancakes are good, french toast can be absolutely divine, and quiche never fails to impress. But waffles are my absolute favorite brunch meal.

One Reason Waffles Are Brunch Winners Is Their Versatility: You Can Serve Them Sweet or Savory – With Toppings to Match!

Everyone thinks first of sweet waffles. That’s why the standard image of a waffle generally comes with butter and syrup. But many of you are just as comfortable with healthier versions, topped with fresh fruit, or perhaps peanut butter or nutella.  

However, those crispy rectangles or circles with the delicious dimples – made for soaking up the toppings – are just as wonderful served with heartier toppings:

  • For example, you could make Cheddar-cheese enhanced waffles, and serve them alongside nice juicy slices of ham. With a crisp green salad on the side?
  • Or how about offering your guests a plate on which you’ve artistically ladled heavenly home-made chicken a la king atop a nice, crisp sourdough waffle?
  • Then again, there are several restaurants around the country who claim to have originated the concept of serving fried chicken and waffles – on the same plate. Not sure what you think of that. For me, this combo fails to appeal… Either it sounds too heavy or it’s too much brown! I like more color contrast on my plates.

I’m Not Alone in My Love of Freshly Baked Waffles, As You Surely Know.

It’s no coincidence that a lot of motels now feature “make your own” waffle bars as a part of their complimentary continental breakfast offerings: 

  • A lot of people, including my sister, actually select their lodging based on whether or not the dining room includes one of those ultra cool “Belgian waffle” gizmos that rotate the waffle 180-degrees.
  • And who could blame her?
  • After all, those babies turn out a delicious, light, crispy product with nice deep pockets for holding your favorite toppings in under three minutes!

Perhaps I ought to tell her I’ve just discovered you can buy a home version of these wonderful Belgian waffle makers on Amazon.com – for much less than a commercial machine would cost.

  • The online reviews are glowing, so I expect it’s a great buy…  
  • But then again, maybe I won’t share this info.
  • She might quit visiting me, as my well-used waffle baker isn’t quite so fancy!!

Now, call me an elitist, if you will, but when I talk about serving  waffles at home,  I’m not talking about those poor excuses for waffles that you can buy in the freezer case at your grocery store. No matter how much the TV commercials tout those things, you’re certain to “let go” of the idea that those are edible treats once you’ve baked – and enjoyed – waffles from scratch.

Waffles aren’t any harder to make than pancakes, though you do need a waffle iron. If cost’s a concern,  go check out your local or resale shop, check out what’s available on eBay.com – or just borrow one from a friend.  (Though once you start making waffles, you won’t want to give it back!)

Slightly used waffle makers are generally pretty easy to find, so not having one is no excuse for not making homemade waffles. Lots of people receive waffle irons as gifts, and never get around to using them.

  • So if you go the thrift shop route, you might even be able to pick one up for under ten bucks.
  • Given a choice, go for a vintage waffle baker if you can, the cast iron grill plates make nice crispy waffles. And the housing will probably be more sturdy.
  • On the other hand, as mentioned above, there are some pretty fantastic new waffle makers available – there’s even one from Kitchenaid that allows you make two Belgian waffles at the same time! (No waiting!)
  • And the newer George Foreman grills include removable waffle plates.

I have to admit though, I can’t make waffles without recalling Donkey, in the Shrek movies.

Specifically, what comes to mind is that scene in the first movie, after Shrek tells Donkey he can spend the night. Donkey is excited, prancing around, and he tells Shrek: “This is gonna be fun! We can stay up late, swapping manly stories, and in the morning, I’m making waffles!

Don’t know what kind of waffles Donkey serves up in Shrek’s swamp. But true to my “creative foodie” cooking style, I can’t make my waffles the same way twice. No matter how good they are, I know my creative muse will demand something new  next time… Hey, maybe that’s how Racheal Ray comes up with all those delicious new variations on her culinary themes!

Regardless, the waffles I just finished serving were pretty darn memorable – and fairly healthy too. Which means they were good enough that I thought I’d jot down the recipe and share it with you.

  • Today we had ginger, oatmeal and applesauce-enhanced waffles topped with butter and maple syrup. And a side of maple-flavored sausage patties.
  • A topping of grilled apple slices would have made a great alternative to the syrup.  And been a fantastic accompaniment to the pork sausage. Yum! Maybe next time!!!
  • As always with all cooking, feel free to exercise your own creativity: I made today’s waffles with oatmeal, applesauce and spices, but if you don’t have applesauce or oatmeal on hand, you could substitute a cup of shredded apples and/or a cup of granola…

Here you go…

Splendid Apple Ginger Waffles with Pecans

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup old fashioned (not instant) oatmeal, swirled in blender
½ cup pecans, swirled in blender
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
tablespoon fresh ginger, grated (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray

Instructions

Preheat a waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also preheat your oven to 250°F so you can keep the finished waffles warm while you complete the baking process.

Into a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt. Add the oatmeal, pecans and spices and stir to mix evenly.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are a pale yellow color. Add the milk, melted butter, applesauce and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk just until blended. Do not over-mix.

In a third bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter, being careful not to over-mix.

Coat the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray as required and pour enough batter in the iron to just cover waffle grid. (For my George Foreman G5 grill, I use a half cup of batter on each half of the grill.)

Bake according to your grill manufacturer’s instructions until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes, depending upon grill size. Check the waffles for doneness about a minute before you estimate they will be done, and continue cooking if needed, to a golden brown. (In checking for doneness, open the waffle iron carefully and watch out for steam. Do not open the waffle iron for at least 1 minute. If you do, the waffle will split, leaving half the batter on each grid, and you’ll have a mess to clean up!)

That’s all for this post on waffles. Next up: Sourdough waffles!

Hop to It! There’s Still Time to Bake Homemade Christmas Cookies: Why Not Start a Family Tradition?

December 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Food & Recipes

Homemade Chrismas Cookies: Now That's Tradition!

Gosh, suddenly it’s really looking like Christmas around here! How about at your place?

Here in Northwestern Illinois, we got at least seven inches of snow on Thursday, and then a few more on Saturday. Today, it is sunny and probably four degrees below zero – Fahrenheit – even before you take into account the blowing and drifting snow.

As far as I’m concerned, a day like today is just perfect. It’s the kind of day where you want to stay home, enjoy a fire in the fireplace if you’ve got one, crank up the Christmas carols on your stereo or iPod, and bake up some fabulous homemade Christmas cookies! You know, it’s a day to say: “Let it snow, I’m baking cookies!”

  • If you’ve got kids or grandkids handy, be sure to get them involved in this cookie-baking action.
  • Family cookie-baking is the stuff memories are made of. In fact, my late brother-in-law once declared that Christmas wasn’t worth coming home for unless there were homemade Christmas cookies! He personally preferred the cut out kind…
  • To this day, my adult kids still try to get to their grandma’s house a few days before Christmas, just so they can participate in making the traditional holiday cookies!

Holiday cookie making is a great opportunity for family bonding and  – sort of like giving kids a big box to play with – it won’t cost you much to make these wonderful memories, so it’s a perfect holiday-based family activity.

Here Are a Few Family-Friendly Holiday Cookie Favorites:

These quick and easy favorites are also guaranteed to make your holiday cookie tray a star!

  • The Pepperkaker cut-out cookies are a recipe from my Norwegian step-mother. They’re light and spicy – and just scream “Christmas!” to me
  • The Mint Meltaways are another one of my childhood favorites: a cookie my mother used to make, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. They’re a bit like Mexican Wedding Cakes, except that they’re drop cookies, not formed – and of course, they’re green and mint flavored! My sister and I have also taken this recipe and modified it over the years, trying different flavors. The recipe is pretty easy, so doubtless you can make modifications to the flavors, too!
  • The Chocolate Chewies are something my kids learned how to make with their grandfather, many years ago. These days, just making themhelps keep his memory alive

Pepperkaker

These spicy Norwegian Christmas cookies don’t need icing. Thin and crisp, they’re a great project for kids – even younger ones – if you make the dough in advance. Let them have fun cutting them out, placing them on the cookie sheet, and watching the timer ’til they’re done!

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup water
7/8 cup butter
1 tablespoon orange zest — grated
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking soda

METHOD:

Boil sugar, syrup, and water in a small saucepan. Put the butter and spices in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the hot sugar mixture. Stir until butter has melted. Cool.

Stir together baking soda and flour.

Mix all ingredients toether to make a smooth dough. Cover and let stand overnight.

Roll out one portion of the dough at a time, with a light touch. Cut out shapes from the dough with cookie cutters.

Place the cookies on cold, greased cookie sheets. Bake the cookies at 400F for 5-8 minutes in the center of the oven. Check often, as they burn easily.


Mint Meltaways

Yes, that’s almost a tablespoon of peppermint extract in these cookies. You can cut it down if that seems excessive. Use the cake flour and butter. I’ve tried “cheaping out” with margarine and regular flour, but the cookies just aren’t the same… Hey, it’s Christmas!

INGREDIENTS:

2-1/2 C. butter
1-1/4 C. sifted confectioners’ sugar
2-1/2 t. pure peppermint extract
4-6 drops green food coloring
1/4 t. salt
5-1/2 – 5-3/4 C. cake flour

Additional confectioners’ sugar to roll finished the cookies in.

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring the butter to room temperature and cream it in your mixer.  Beat in the powdered sugar, peppermint extract and green food coloring and salt.

Slowly and carefully beat in the cake flour, mix until completely blended.

Drop teaspoons of the cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, keeping about 2-inches between cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in your preheated oven, until the cookies are set and just slightly brown.

Remove from pan to cool on wire racks. When cookies are cool, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.


Chocolate Chewies

Are these cookies or candy? I’m not sure, but you’re guaranteed that they’re easy to make and irresistable! Don’t let the sugar and corn syrup continue to boil once they start, or the cookies will turn into rocks, instead of chewy treats…

INGREDIENTS:

6 C. corn flake cereal
1 C. granulated sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 C. Karo syrup
1-1/2 C. smooth peanut butter
6 oz. chocolate chips

butter to grease the pan and your hands

13 x 9 pan

METHOD:

Measure the corn flakes into a large bowl and set aside. Grease your pan with butter.

Put the sugar, salt and corn syrup into a saucepan and bring it just to a boil, stirring constantly. Make sure all sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, and add in the peanut butter. Stir well to incorporate.

Pour the hot syrup over the corn flakes and stir quickly, to incorporate all the flakes before the syrup cools too much.  Pour the flake mixture into the pan and use your buttered hands to spread it around evenly to the edges.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and pour over the top of the cereal mixture. Spread completely over the top, with a spatula.

Allow the chewies to cool and cut into small squares.


More Christmas Cookies

Well there you have it: a trio of fairly easy Christmas cookie recipes you can make with your children or grandchildren. If you’re looking for more fun, more challenge and more adventure, you might try setting aside a while day for Christmas cookie baking, as my Norwegian step-mother does.

Rosette CookiesAccording to her, it’s a Norwegian tradition for housewives to bake seven kinds of Christmas cookies. For years we’ve gotten a group of bakers together for a day in early December, where we continue this tradition. Among the Norwegian cookies we bake and share, are:

  • Goro
  • Sandbakkels
  • Fattigmann
  • Krumkake
  • Pepperkaker
  • Rosettes
  • The seventh cookie is called Drumar, though I suspect that’s not the right spelling. Anyway, they’re little bites of shortbread heaven. I haven’t been able to find a recipe for those, but they are very like these Danish shortbread cookies, called Pebber Nodder.

So there you have it! A list of fabulous Scandianvian Christmas cookies for your cookie making pleasure!


If you’d like to become more familiar with the traditional Christmas Cookies of other countries, one of your best bets is to start collecting Christmas cookie cookbooks, such as Rose Levy Beranbaum’s fantastic book, Rose’s Christmas Cookies.

Beranbaum provides a comprehensive selection of 60 cookie recipes for eating and decoration, for keeping and giving, that is probably the last word on the subject. The author of the award-winning The Cake Bible, Beranbaum has applied her passion for precise, foolproof recipes to the delectable business of cookie making.

Especially useful is the fact that she includes:

  • Full-page color photos of every cookie, and more than 50 line drawings of techniques and templates, making the book both easy to use and a delight to the eye.
  • Chapters devoted to tree and mantelpiece cookies; cookies to make for and/or with kids; cookies for sending, for open house, and holiday dinner parties, among others.

Among the Recipes Covered Are Classics Like:

  • Scottish Shortbread
  • Chocolate-Dipped Melting Moments
  • Mexican Wedding Cakes
  • Spritz Butter Cookies
  • Springerle
  • Pfeffernüsse

Also offered are Beranbaum’s own creations, such as Maple Walnut Sablé Sandwiches, and those of her friends, like Lora Brody’s Christmas Phantoms and Mrs. King’s Irresistibles.

Where applicable, recipes offer optional mixing methods for food processor or electric mixer (or by hand). Beranbaum’s “Smart Cookie” accompanies each recipe and provides hints on ingredients and techniques.

Better yet, the book is packed with information for decoration, storage, and cookie-sending.  And there’s a color-photo-illustrated glossary of ingredients and equipment, the book is encyclopedic on its subject and virtually guarantees Christmas (or any time) cookie-making success.

You’ll enjoy baking from Rose’s Christmas Cookies, no matter whether you’re a novice baker or an old hand at cookie baking.

Feeling a Bit Down? As Auntie Mame Famously Said: “We Need A Little Christmas, NOW.” Why Not Start By Trying One of These Festive Holiday Recipes Featuring Cranberries?

December 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Food & Recipes

Need a Little Christmas? Try Cranberries!

Enough of the Economic Doom and Gloom! “We Need a Little Christmas, Now!”

No matter what you think of Lucille Ball in this clip from “Mame,” the sentiment is correct: “We need a little Christmas!” It’s time to start celebrating the wonder of our end-of-year holidays. We need to lighten up, smile and enjoy life! Cranberries can help! And I don’t mean those cranberry garlands kids string for the tree…

After all, whether your family prefers to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice, chances are you’re looking for some tasty and healthy new recipes to compliment the traditional ones you always make and serve.

Here are a trio of great recipes, all featuring nutritious, delicious fresh or frozen cranberries. Cranberries are in season this time of year. Why not try these recipes using fresh cranberries?

They’re not only chock full of good stuff like antioxidants which means they’re really good for you – but they freeze well, too.  Which means you can buy several bags and freeze the extra for use later this year!


My first recipe gift to you is a great cranberry dessert recipe, which I just received from my mother. She’s already made it, served it to her friends and reports that it’s fantastic! The fruit layer of this trifle comes out a beautiful ruby red color and it’s as impressive looking as it is easy to make.

Make it in a large glass bowl if you have one, so the colorful layering is visible. Your guests begin eating with their eyes, after all!

Considering how healthy cranberries are, I can’t wait to spend a bit of time in the kitchen and create my own version of this luscious dessert!

Cranberry Trifle

INGREDIENTS:

2 (12oz) bags cranberries (fresh or frozen)

2-1/4 cups sugar

2 tbsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger

2 cups water

2-12oz pound cakes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 8oz cream cheese at room temperature

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla

2 cups heavy cream

METHOD:

In medium saucepan combine cranberries, 2 cups sugar, ginger and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook till cranberries begin to pop (8-10min) and sauce thickens. Let cool completely.

Make cream filling: using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, brown sugar, remaining ¼ cup sugar and vanilla on high till well combined. With mixer on medium, gradually add heavy cream; continue beating till soft peaks form.

Arrange 1/3 of cake in a 3-qt. serving dish. (Traditional trifles are served in glass bowl which allow the layers to show from the outside.) Spoon 1/3 of compote over cake, spread to sides of dish. Dollop 1/3 of cream filling over compote; spread to sides of dish. Repeat twice, ending with cream filling. Cover, refrigerate at least 2hrs ( or up to 1day).


Next up is a recipe from Sharon at the Baby Boomer Advisor Club. Sharon’s not only a great Southern cook, but a huge believer in the nutritional value of cranberries. This one makes a fantastic homemade holiday gift, too!

Holiday Cranberry Apricot Chutney

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup diced dried apricots

2 large apple diced with the skin on (McIntosh are recommended)

1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries

1/2 cup raisins, dark or white

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 pinch ground cloves

1 cup water

3/4 cup white sugar or sugar substitute

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup of lemon juice

Grated peel of one orange

Optional: 2 tablespoons orange juice

Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans

METHOD:

In a medium bowl mix together the fruits and spices. In a medium saucepan, boil water and sugar, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add the dried fruit mixture, lemon juice and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

You may optionally add the juice of the orange as well…not too much, as you don’t want to cut the apricot flavor. And if you like a bit of crunch, add the pecans or walnuts.

Serve immediately, or date and refrigerate in a covered container.

Makes about 5 cups.

Note: Chutney can be made 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator or up to three weeks ahead and frozen. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours (this depends on the shape of your container and the temperature of your fridge).

This chutney is very versatile. You can use it as a meat glaze on chicken, turkey, or pork. Alternately, it is fantastic served on your apple, or mince meat pies along with your with ice cream.


And here’s a great recipe I found on the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association site. This one will make your friends sit up and say, “Wow!”

Cranberry Risotto

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups cranberry juice cocktail (I recommend the “lite” version, which has all the great taste, but far fewer calories.)

1 cup short grain white rice (such as Arborio)

¼ cup leeks, chopped

Salt and pepper

¼ cup Feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries (you may know these as “craisins”)

2 tablespoons olive oil

METHOD:

Pour Cranberry Juice Cocktail into small sauce pan and place on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a 1 quart sauce pan and place over high heat. Add leeks and salt and pepper. Sauté until leeks are translucent and then add the rice. Stir until the rice is coated with oil.

Add the boiling cranberry juice cocktail to the rice and leeks. Stir. Cover. Turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, add cheese and sweetened dried cranberries, stir well.

Turn into serving dish. Serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.


More Cranberry Recipes:

If you’d like to see more recipes featuring cranberries, here are some great links:


How About 40 More Fabulous Cranberry Recipes?

Here’s exactly the answer you’re seeking: A beautiful cookbook featuring fabulous photography and 40 fantastic cranberry recipes created by master chefs and served at wonderful restaurants – now available for you to make in your own kitchen. It’s Cranberries: 40 Recipes for Fine Dining at Homeby Elaine Elliot.

This book features cranberry infused breakfast dishes, appetisers, soups, sides, main dishes and desserts from famous restaurants around the country. Aren’t you hungry for dishes like:

  • Christmas Morning Cranberry Muffins
  • Cranberry Almond Pancakes
  • Chilled Cranberry and Raspberry Soup
  • Brie Baked en Croute with Cranberry Sauce
  • Country Pate with Cranberry Compote
  • Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Red Onion and Cranberry Confit
  • Pear and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Dried Cranberry Brandy Cream
  • Cranberry Maple Bread Pudding

Grab this book now! After all, it’s true: “We need a little Christmas, now!”

Good Gravy! If Comfort Foods Can Make the Most Nerve-Wracked Day Seem Happier, Should You Learn to Make Healthier Versions? Or Does That Defeat the Purpose?

October 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Food & Recipes

Do Comfort Foods Really Reduce Stress?

Given the Major Tension and Trauma In the World Lately, You’ve a Lot Of “Heavy Stuff”  Weighing You Down. Perhaps You’re Stressing Over Your:

  • Decimated stock portfolio, recently failed 401(K) and the uncertain economy  
  • Impression that the war has been going on forever and is costing our nation too much
  • Frustration with the lying attacks in this interminably long presidential campaign 
  • Worries over skyrocketing food and energy costs – high gas costs this summer, but now there’s your next unknown: the expense of heating your home this winter – and/or even how you’ll be affording the big holiday meal
  • Concern over how you’re going to get through the coming holidays – financially, emotionally – or both
  • Real fear that you really ought to have that lump (or sore spot) checked out… you worry that it might be really BAD NEWS
  • Trepidation over your parents’ failing health and your suspicion that you’ll soon be approaching the time where current arrangements must change
  •  Parental concern over the fact that your daughter just lost her job and her husband’s serving overseas – you’re worrying over whether she and the kids will have to move in with you? 

That’s A Lot of Stress You’re Carrying Around With You! Especially Since You Can’t Immediately Resolve Most of Those Problems! 

No wonder you’re looking for some way to ease your feelings of frustration, and make yourself feel better. 

  • After all, you can make a plan for:
    • How you’re going to approach rebuilding your challenged finances and retirement plan 
    • How to get along with the squabbling relatives over the holidays
    • How much to spend on all those holiday gifts
    • Seeing your health care provider to be tested or get the worrisome lump/sore spot examined
  • And you can even come up with an effective strategy to allow you to afford your utility bills this winter, though it may involve wearing layers and setting up a long term payment plan
  • With regard to your worries over your parents, your children and grandchildren, you don’t have to solve those problems alone. You’ll have to work that out together – perhaps with some outside assistance
  • As for the election, well, it will be over soon. Then you’ll just have to wait out the time until the new regime takes over

But All of This Strategizing Takes Time & Effort – And You Pay With a Toll on Your Soul.

Beyond that, you have to realize that you are never totally in control.

This is no doubt why, in challenging times all humans seek outlets for stress… We’re looking for comfort AND something we have the ability to control:

  • Some people turn to drink
  • Some to sex (think David Duchovny and this “sex addict” thing)
  • There are those who find solace in just sitting there doing nothing (or maybe watching way too much television?)
  • Others immerse themselves in solitary games, like online Scrabble, or hide out from the world for awhile (My grandfather would confine himself to the basement, where he slept away whole days on an uncomfortable army cot. But when he emerged, he was ready to take on the world again!)
  • A lot of people become workout or exercise fanatics
  • Some people try gambling
  • But the number one choice for dealing with your stress: eating your favorite comfort foods

Mmmmm. Comfort Foods.

Sometimes Just Saying the Names of Your Favorite Comfort Foods – or Just Thinking About How Wonderful They Would Taste – Can Be All the Soul-soothing You Need. Other Times, You Really Need to Chew and Taste the Food… 

With regard to the comfort you can derive from imagining comfort foods, here’s a story you might relate to: Back when I was in high school, I and a group of friends spent the tumultuous “Summer of 69” (also known as the “Summer of Love” and the summer man first walked on the moon) far away from home, studying in Europe.

  • We enjoyed the trip and the cultural experiences, and gamely ate the meals we were served – both at the school cafeteria and in the local bistros. But we often found ourselves intensely hungry for the comfort foods of our homeland.  
  • We’d get a bunch of us together in someone’s dorm room, and do a round-robin, where we talked about what we most missed and took turns reverently saying the names of the favorite comfort foods we were most looking forward to diving into on our return home. Maybe you did a similar thing when you were away at camp, college, or the serving with the military. I suspect we weren’t unique in our lust for the familiar in the midst of uncertainty.
  • Anyway, we discovered that just reverently saying the names of our favorite foods and fantasizing about which one we would eat first, once we got back home, was actually very soothing.

The ever-evolving list we came up with looked something like the one below. So if you’re questioning the benefits of dining via your imagination, feel free to run through the list below and try out the “fantasizing method” for yourself. It’s quick – and very low-calorie:

  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Chicken and dumplings
  • Tuna noodle casserole
  • Rice pudding
  • Chicken a la King
  • Pot roast with plenty of rich fragrant homemade gravy to ladle over cooked carrots, potatoes and other vegetables
  • Bacon cheeseburgers
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Lasagna
  • Beef stroganoff served with noodles
  • Cream of tomato soup with gooey grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Meatloaf and baked potatoes
  • Chocolate cake with thick fudge frosting
  • Scalloped potatoes and ham
  • Warm, melty chocolate chip cookies and milk
  • Hot fudge sundaes made with rich French vanilla ice cream, plenty of thick, rich fudge and toasted pecans
  • Warm apple pie with cinnamon ice cream

Feeling Better Now? If Not, Then It’s Time to Get Cooking for Real…

Pick Out Your Favorite Comfort Food and Make It Right Now. How About Putting a Really Good Gravy Onto Something?

After all, gravy’s not only soul satisfying, it’s quick and easy to make, and can be made with virtually combination of liquid, fat, flavorings and a thickening agent.
That’s right: you can make gravy using liquids like meat stock or broth (go with low-sodium if you’re buying it pre-packaged), cream, milk, water, juices, wine — even beer. And your fat can come from pan any sort of pan drippings – even those you get from grilling hamburgers!

  • With regard to the liquid: I’ve made a fabulous and soul-satisfying “beer-based gravy for a wonderful pork roast. And think what a wine-enhanced gravy does for your best chicken casserole — suddenly you’re making your own personal version of “coq au vin!”
  • As for the fat: If you don’t have pan drippings, you can also use reserved bacon grease, butter, margarine – even heart-healthy olive oil!
  • If you don’t want to thicken your gravy with flour,you can also make your roux (that’s the official name for your “pre-gravy” mixture of hot fat and flour) with cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot
  • For flavorings, your imagination is the only limitation! Some flavor will come from your choice of liquid and fat of course, but you can also make liberal use of fresh or dried herbs, spices, salts and peppers, packaged sauces like Worchestershire, salsas, fruits, onions, mushrooms – even oddities like mustards, ketchup, tomato paste, lemon or lime juice, instant coffee granules and peanut butter have a place in flavoring gravies… Just hold off on the MSG and Kitchen Bouquet, please!

Now, If You’re Still Feeling “Gravy Challenged”…Here’s More Help  

That is, you’ve never yet been able to make gravy that’s thin or thick enough, or perhaps lump-free – relax. This can be easily resolved with  simple lessons and a bit of practice… No need to resort to bottled gravies for creating gravies for your best comfort foods.

Actually, once you know the secrets of making great gravy, you can also put those culinary tricks to good use making similar sauces: Think of a wonderful, homemade three-cheese sauce for your mac and cheese, for example.

Not to mention that the same lump-free sauce tricks apply to chicken a la king, stroganoff, chicken and dumplings, and even homemade tuna noodle casserole.

Aren’t You Feeling More “Comfortably” Empowered Now?

One final comment: Should you try making healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods?  Since you know that proper nutrition and exercise are so important to your ongoing health, this may be a good idea.

On the other hand, sometimes, you just have to have your comfort foods “just like Mom used to make.”

So in that case, you’re going to have to learn to exercise portion control. For example, I love a good grilled Reuben sandwich. I mean I really exault over the otherworldly combination of corned beef,  Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on dark rye bread.  

But I know there’s too much fat and salt in a traditional Reuben for my own good.

So, aside from learning to make a healthier version, using turkey instead of corned beef; which is an excellent substitution, I also have a personal rule not to allow myself to eat more than a half of a Reuben, and then only once or twice a year…

But if you want to know how to make healthy comfort foods, help is here…

Yes, You Can Make Your Own Versions of Healthy Comfort Foods

If you’re interested in learning how to make your favorite comfort foods using healthier methods, you’ll want to check out these great cookbooks I just discovered:

So bring on the challenges. You’re empowered to handle them now, with the help of your favorite comfort foods, right?

Yummy Recipe for Stress Management: With All the Trauma in the World, Why Not Take Action to Relieve Your Stress by Baking Something Healthy & Delicious – Sharing With Friends?

October 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Diabetes, Food & Recipes, Wellness

Looking For Stress Reduction? Have Some Fun With Friends!

With All the Economic Drama of Recent Days, You Know We’re All in Need of Some Good Stress Management Techniques.

Hopefully you’ve been able to find an opportunity for a big belly laugh every day, since you know laughter’s a proven stress reliever. No need to head to a comedy club, there have been some great opportunities offered by the presidential campaign:

  • Tina Fey’s impressions of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live have really had the world laughing
  • The real Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live this past weekend was another good chance to laugh, especially Amy’s the end of show rap  
  • Not to mention the ably delivered standup comedy of both McCain and Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

Read more

Newly Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes: Wondering if You’ll Ever Be Able to Enjoy Treats Like Chocolate, Ice Cream, or Granola Again?

September 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Diabetes, Food & Recipes, Wellness

Can You Still Eat Treats With Type 2 Diabetes?

If you’re like most Baby Boomers who’ve suddenly found themselves with newly-acquired Type 2 diabetes, you were probably totally shocked when routine blood work during your annual check-up revealed your blood glucose numbers were “out of whack.” (Sorry, Highly Technical Term)

It Seems Baby Boomers Are More Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes

The typical Type 2 Diabetic profile includes:

  • Over 40
  • Sedentary and overweight, especially with excess weight around the middle (“Apple” body type)
  • Hispanic, Black, Native American, or Asian background

The Good News is You Can Handle It – Even the “Healthy Eating” Part!

Here are some helpful tips to get you started on the road to glycemic control:

  • Set goals for controlling your diabetes with your doctor
  • Arrange for some training in how to handle your new challenge. (Many hospitals and clinics now have diabetes education offerings, and many insurance programs cover this)
  • Check out web sites designed to help you manage your diabetes, too. All have great tips and recipes. Here are several good ones:

Be Honest About Your Eating Habits

When you meet with the dietician during your diabetes training sessions, it’s tempting to try to put a “good face” on your eating habits, but best to tell the truth… Your goal is to find out what changes you need to make in your diet in order to keep your blood glucose numbers in control.

  • Don’t worry, most likely you will still be able to enjoy eating many of your favorite foods – but now you’ll learn to use healthy moderation
  • Your dietician will show you that you don’t have to settle for boring food; in fact, you’ll still be able to enjoy loads of foods with ethnic and regional flavors
  • Realistically some foods may have to be prepared differently
  • But amazingly, many of your old favorite treats, like ice cream, chocolate or granola will probably still fit into your healthy new regimen.
  • Apparently it’s not so much about the sugar, as it is about something called the “glycemic index” which measures how fast a food is likely to raise your blood sugar.

Your Dietician Can Best Advise You on Your Situation

Everyone’s specific situation is different, and diabetes is not to be ignored, so this post does not attempt to provide medical advice. But just to prove that you probably will be able to enjoy some of your old favorite foods – in appropriate moderation, of course – here are a handful of diabetic diet-approved recipes for granola. For help with your dietary calculations, all of them come complete with nutritional information.

Remember, Granola isn’t Just for Breakfast (or Hippies) Anymore… Never Was, Actually

You can also enjoy it as an appetizer, a snack, or pack it with you on a hike. The hiking-take-along concept is important; since you’ll most certainly be looking for ways to get more exercise, and a brisk hike accented at the end with a snack like one of these crunchy and naturally sweet granolas can be extremely satisfying!

What a Delicious Way to Reward Yourself for Working Up a Healthy Sweat!

  • Granny’s Old Fashioned Apple Granola
  • Eight Great Recipes for Low Fat Homemade granola

Why not plan to enjoy one of these delicious and nutritional recipes today!

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