Monday, July 25, 2011

Don't Let Summer Go By Without Trying These!

It's been a while since I've been able to write you all.  Summers seem to be busier than the school year these days!  I hope you all have been enjoying this season of sunshine and fresh fruit.  Speaking of fruit (how's that for a lead-in?), pictured on the left are what my youngest son said is "the best fruit he has ever had".  They are Virginia's crop of Organic Donut Peaches.  And last week our box from the farm was full of them!  Up until this past week, the fruit from our farm has left something to be desired.  The strawberries were small and almost mushy, the apples were Granny Smith's, thus tart and not for snacking, the blueberries were unimpressive, and the cherries...Well, we all got a good laugh out of the cherries.  2 weeks ago, we received a bag of conventional peaches and they were not bad, although they yielded a better pie than they did a snack food.  So when I saw about 20 of these little guys in our box last week, my first thought was, "O.K.  Another peach pie".   And then I ate one.   Oh my!   Not since California have I had fruit so sweet and juicy.  And, as I said before, my younger son just can't stop eating them. 

One thing I love about summer is the fruit it yields.  If it is a good season, there is an endless variety of Organic berries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and watermelon.  In the summer, who needs to snack on processed foods?  It's the perfect time to jump-start a healthy diet. 

I have to mention that all of the vegetables we have received from our farm have been outstanding.  From the Kale and Swiss Chard to the Summer Squash, Beans, Beets, and Corn, it has all been a delightful addition to our weekly menu.  Will I join a CSA next year?  So far, it is looking like a definite "Yes".

I do have to run - obligations beckon!   But I had to let you all know about those Donut Peaches.  If you get a chance to try some, I hope they are as good as ours have been.  For those of you who live Abroad, I recall Europe having the most delicious fruit this time of year.  Enjoy!!

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Luscious Summer Fruit Pie

I promised a friend of mine that I would give her the recipe for my summer fruit pies.  Today I made one with fresh peaches from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture or "Farm")and it was wonderful.  It made me remember my promise and I decided to share this very easy recipe with you all. 

Peach, Blueberry, Blackberry, or Strawberry Pie

Prepared low-fat graham cracker crust (I use Keebler or Wholly Wholesome brand, which is found at Whole Foods Market or the Organic sections of some supermarkets)
1 quart blueberries, OR strawberries, OR blackberries, OR 6 large peaches (I used 10 small ones today)
1 cup sugar (3/4 cup if you use peaches or sweet berries)
3 Tablespoons cornstarch (4 if you use peaches)
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon margarine
Wash and sort berries.  If you use peaches, wash and slice them into 8 slices each.  Measure about 1 and 1/2 cups of berries or 1/2 of the peaches into a saucepan and mash them slightly.  Add cornstarch, salt, and water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add margarine.  Cool slightly.  Pour the uncooked berries into the pie shell (or line the bottom of it evenly with peach slices).  Then spread the cooked fruit on top.  Refrigerate 3-4 hours before serving.  Serves 6-8

This is a delicious way to get a serving or two of fruit.  And it is surprisingly easy to make.  When we go to the beach each summer with our good friends, I buy lots of fruit from a local fruit stand and make a couple of these pies each day.  They are something we all look forward to.  I hope you enjoy them!

Until next time, happy and healthy eating! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Confession

Diets don't work.  Not the Atkins diet, Jenny Craig, or even Weight Watchers.  Unless you change the way you eat and ENJOY IT, any weight you lose while on "a structured diet" will come right back once the structure is removed and you return to your old eating habits.   It's inevitable.  

For me, taking inventory of everything I ate - counting every calorie (and realizing my daily input was well over 3,000) and counting fat grams (discovering that almost 50% of my calories were from fat) opened my eyes to where I needed to make changes.  I needed to cut calories - dramatically - and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and omit deep fried foods (a recognized addiction for me) altogether.  I love the meals I cook from my favorite cooking magazines and do not feel deprived in any way.  In fact, I cringe when I remember all the grease I used to dump into my body.  But I do allow myself one naughty pleasure: Starbucks....

Anyone who has been to Starbucks with me for breakfast knows that I order the same thing every time I go - a grande non-fat chai tea latte, and, depending on the season, either a pumpkin scone or a slice of the very berry or cinnamon reduced-fat coffee cake.  When I know I am going to have a particularly low-fat lunch and dinner, I might even order a cinnamon scone.  Yes, I am aware of the fat content of Starbucks' scones and "reduced-fat" coffee cakes, but I do not believe in deprivation and, frankly, they are yummy!    They are not deep fried, so I am not succumbing to my old addiction.  But they are a nice treat to have on occasion and, especially after reaching and maintaining our goal, we all deserve a nice treat now and then.

There....It's out.  Now you know my dirty, little secret.   Why, you may ask, am I confessing it to you?  Well, it's because I realize that it's precisely because I allow myself my chai and scones every now and then that I have been able to keep the weight I lost off.    My forays into Starbucks keep me from getting into a rut and/or being frustrated.  I hope something in my confession resonates with you - I felt I had to get it out there.  Until next time, "happy" and healthy eating....  


Monday, July 11, 2011

The Times They Are A-Changin'

When I was young, the Courtyard Marriot was about as fancy a hotel as I could imagine.  Don't get me wrong.  Courtyard Marriots are very nice.  But last weekend my son and I stayed in a hotel that looked like it could be a space colony on Mars.  And this was with a 16-year old travel baseball team!  The photo on the left is an interior shot of the rooms which surround a courtyard complete with fountains, exotic bird cages, and quaint little bridges that take you from one "landmark" to another.  When I asked that we not be placed in a room on the first floor, I was told, in a tone reminiscent of the girl in PeeWee Herman's Big Adventure who laughingly says "There's no basement in the Alamo!" that  "There are no rooms on the first floor".  Our room-for-two was a beautiful suite complete with a separate living room and wet bar  (See below)

O.K.  So the picture doesn't do it any justice, but you get the idea.   Our last night in the room we ordered room service - had to!  The dining area was just too nice to ignore.  Yes, it was buffalo wings with celery and Ranch dressing and a couple of apples for dessert, but hey!  It felt elegant.  Everything nowadays seems to be moving in the direction of "feeling elegant". 

Automobiles are so comfortable and the sound-systems so good, that, traveling long-distances is still commonplace despite the almost $4.00/ gallon gasoline!  Kids would rather play video games on a gorgeous day than hang around outdoors.  Vitamin D deficiency has actually become a problem in our country!  (The sun is the best source of it, you know...)   And most communication is done through e-mails and texting.   ("Hello out there!"   See what I mean...)   And as for our food...  (You knew I was getting to that, didn't you?).  Between hydroponics, waxy glazes, and a myriad of pesticides and fungicides,  produce in most markets is picture-perfect.  The taste often leaves something to be desired, but hey!  Who cares when it is so pretty? 

Because of the growth of fish farms (which are the water-cousins of most cattle and chicken operations), salmon is always available and relatively cheap.   Never mind that, like most conventional cattle and chickem farms, the environment bears little resemblance to what a salmon should be living in.  Not to mention the consequences of overcrowding... 

And have you noticed that nothing "conventional and/or processed" seems to "spoil" anymore?  I have a loaf of bread sitting on my counter that I bought before school ended and it is still soft and mold-free.  I plan to keep it there all summer long and see if it will ever go bad!  I guess Wonder Bread had that same endearing quality, but it wasn't real bread and we knew it!   My never-dying loaf of bread is a high-priced,  whole grain variety. 

Yup.  The times they are a-changin'.  But let's hope that, as they do, we are still able to recognize what is right or wrong, smart or foolish, and good for us or harmful.  The growth of the Organics industry is encouraging, as is the increasing prevalence of CSA's and Farmer's Markets.  I really can't complain about the increase in creature comforts - in amazing new "family" hotels, or cars you could practically live in.  But I hope we don't forget the simple things - the great outdoors, home-grown food, and a call or a touch from a friend...

Well, it's been a while - thus the rather long and contemplative post.  Summers are way too busy around my house - a good thing, I guess.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating, playing, and living!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


The biggest complaint I hear about eating healthy is that the food is boring.   And I guess that, when I first changed the way I ate, I felt the same way, too.  What I have learned, however, is that when the grease, excess salt, and ooey-gooey cream is removed, you are finally able to discover what foods really taste like.  I can't think of a vegetable that I don't like.  Even Kale, Collard greens, Brussels Sprouts, and Beets can be delicious when they are fresh and are cooked right.  Brown rice has an almost nutty taste and texture.   Salmon is amazing broiled with a variety of glazes and rubs.  Most ethnic cuisines are outstanding when they are lightened up, including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, and Mexican. 

The photo above is of a family favorite - Spinach Calzone with hot pasta sauce on the side.  Like everything I cook, it is both low in calories and fat, but high in taste and is easy to make.  Use your favorite refrigerated pizza crust, divide it into 4 squares, and fill each one with thawed frozen spinach, mixed with sauteed onions and low-fat feta cheese, and bake until golden brown.  If you have been following this Blog, you will notice that I do not deprive myself of dessert.  On special occasions, I'll make a favorite banana bread, chocolate cake, lemon crumb cake, bread pudding, souffle, angel food cake, or panna cotta - all of them low in fat and calories.  I used to get frustrated ordering out, but now have learned to navigate just about any menu, ending up with what I know are "the best" items on the menu. 

Healthy eating - done right - should not be boring.  In fact, I look forward to each issue of Cooking Light, Healthy Cooking, Eating Well, and Vegetarian Times, knowing that they will provide me and my family with new taste sensations covering a wide variety of ingredients and cuisines.  I highly recommend that you buy a copy of these magazines, try some of the recipes, and then subscribe to the one or ones you like the best.   You will not be disappointed.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

What Do I Do With Beets?

Pictured on the left is the latest installment from our farm, namely beets and cabbage.  I really like both of them - a lot! - when other people cook them.  Beets scare me because they stain everything, or so they say.  I do know that some women at our church have used them to die Easter eggs red.  An article I read warned that, when you work with beets, you should wear gloves.  I will , but I have a white porcelain sink.  Will they stain it?  And my light brown and cream-toned counter top?  Help!  I was planning to peel and cut them into 1" squares, place them in a glass bowl with olive oil, thyme, and kosher salt, and then roast them.  Any advice?  When I made my Chocolate Beet Cake in March (which was outstanding by the way - recipe is in a link below), I used jarred (not canned!) beets, so all the "dirty" work had been done for me.

As for the cabbage, I found a nice recipe that utilizes beer and Kielbasa, which I think my "men" will enjoy.  But those beets.....Yikes!   I can just see them ruining my whole kitchen.  Looking forward to hearing from some of you.  Hope you are enjoying your 4th of July weekend.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!