Friday, June 24, 2011

Happy Eating Healthy Living

Think about the best meal you have ever had or your favorite foods?  How does it make you feel?

Whether it's a sweet juicy slice of watermelon, crisp tart piece of granny smith apple, or creamy smooth morsel of chocolate, food makes me happy. It isn't just about enjoying these foods but the memories behind them.

If you ever visit my great grandmother during the summer, you would find one or more watermelons at her house. It wouldn't take much for me to be able to convince my great grandma to let me crack one open. Even though it was just the two of us, we could make a dent in it. With its naturally sweet candy like flavor, why would you ever want to cover it up?  My grandma would say it's better with salt sprinkled over it. Yuck! I could never bring myself to partake in this act. Sweet and salty I do like, whether popcorn & chocolate or salted caramel, but not salt and watermelon. No matter our differences, the smiles on our faces could never be erased.

I get really excited when I can share my passion for food with others. When I was asked to speak to a weight loss group and share my healthy cooking tips, I immediately began thinking about what helpful tips I could share.
Because of my love for food, I have come up with ways I can enjoy it without feeling guilty.
These are my cooking tips I shared with them and want to share with you.

Cooking Tips:
-Use olive oil for sautéing, oven-baking, grilling
-Use unsalted butter when needed in cooking to control salt amounts in dishes
-Quality ingredients Count!
            Good quality vs. poor quality
            -balsamic vinegar (use for preparing a quick & healthy salad dressing)
            -chocolate chips (Ghirardelli- rich chocolate vs. Nestle-waxy cheap flavor)
-Be creative with VEGETABLES!
            -Roast vegetables to enhance their flavor. Ex- brussel sprouts, zucchini, squash, etc.
            -Use a pizza stone to crisp vegetables for chips Ex. Sweet potatoes, kale chips
            -Use a pizza stone to prepare oven “fried” vegetables Ex. Squash, zucchini, etc.
            -Use vegetables to make a healthier low fat dip. Ex. Butterbean hummus
            -Pile on the vegetables onto your pizza to fill you up without adding extra calories
            -Prepare a pesto out of herbs, spinach, or other greens. Use it for a dip or as a
-To sweeten desserts or drink, use cane sugar which is natural, unrefined, and contains nutrients.

Happy Eating is easy and Healthy Living is even easier with my cooking tips!

Share your thoughts and tips with me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Traveling Palate

My mom:
Who wants to read about someone who gets to the airport two hours ahead, stands in line, and makes it to the plane on time?  Maybe me!...Just once I would like to be that person.

Instead, it is a mad rush to park, trying to park as close as possible to the main floor elevator level. Hmm, let me see....what number is that?...4? - Oh no, no parking on 4! None on 5? What's left?  The last floor..the roof...ha, ha!  The girls and I jerk our bags from the trunk of the car and hit the ground hands are full and believe it or not, I am still trying to stuff one more item in the case as I roll along!  Struggling to juggle luggage, purses, computer cases as we race along...pulling down skirts, pulling up tops, I'm suddenly hit with a thought; " I forgot to wear socks!"  I grimace as the words roll through my head, "Security! security! I hate to take my shoes off!"

Once in the airport, we ride the escalator stairs to reach the second floor only to see a long, long,line..."No, no, please don't let that line be ours, spilling out of the roped maze into the seating lobby!"  We walk quickly past and then stop to ask, only to be told to go back to the last. " Rats! Guess it was ours, just our luck!".  Standing in line, we pray, "Go fast!!!!"

Whitney (me)- I had a feeling that we needed to be at the airport early. I still remember the time when my mom and I had to run barefoot with our shoes dangling in our arms through the airport until we reached the inside of our plane. We had not even had a second to spare to put our shoes on after security. We sighed in relief and exhaustion as we MADE IT to the plane! ha ha. I don't want to go through that again. That will be our famous last words!

Back to you (mom):
I haven't had my caffine today, no stanima to stand in line or consider my dilema of needing to board in 15 minutes.  No way that I'm going to even be at the front of the line in 15 minutes, much less boarding. What is that?  A PJ's coffeehouse?  I leave my luggage with Leslie and powerwalk to get my caffine fix. I'm just grabbing sugar packets when Leslie yells, "Mom, we're in the wrong line!" My heart drops. I feel sick.. "Oh brother!" I can only pray that the next line is miraculously shorter as we speed walk, whizzing past people, headed to what feels like the end of the earth!  Finally, as we reach the line, we breathe a sigh of relief, only a few people in line.  God is so good!  But, wait!  What does that sign say?  There must be some mistake!  No liquids !  I can't take my coffee...that I just bought, haven't even tasted!  The guy at the desk tries to be kind saying, "Just drink fast..maybe you can at least have a few sips before you have to go through security."  I take a gulp of .hot sugar, no cream ..despairingly, I let the paper cup slip through my fingers into the dark chasm of the nearby trash can.

We board. We leave. We arrive.  Here we are at the hotel in Philadelphia, starving, ready for lunch.  Staring out of the window of our hotel, I cannot believe my eyes.  I see a sign that says Reading Terminal Market, just a stone's throw away from our hotel.  From my research, this is the place to go, and I already have my list of places to hit...Somewhat overwhelmed, Whitney, Leslie, and I stand in the opening of the market..There are food signs everywhere;.what will it be? Dessert first at Bassett's, known for the best ice-cream, or Oprah's recommended mac 'n cheese at Delilah's.  Already I feel at home, comfort food.....Southern food.... cornbread and collard greens.

What will we choose?  What other great food discoveries will we make?  Tune in again to read the next saga of our trip and our reviews of the food finds at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market.

Plenty of Southern food here, especially with gardens overflowing with vegetables such as squash and cucumbers. Here is one more creative recipe using common summer vegetables.

Roasted Squash Dip with Baked Pita Chips
White Squash:
2 medium sized white squash
1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Yellow squash:
4 small yellow squash, sliced
1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Pinch salt & pepper

1 clove garlic, grated
2 Tbsp. finely diced onion
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup mayo
¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated Gouda cheese
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. Italian Panko crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Place the two white squash bottom side up on a baking sheet and brush olive oil over it. Bake for 30-35 minutes.  After baking, let cool slightly then using a sharp paring knife, cut a circle “lid” halfway down through the squash.  Remove lid then spoon out the seeds from inside of the squash. Set aside.
*Can be done ahead of time and refrigerated until the next day.
Toss yellow squash slices with 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes or until soft enough to mash. 
Meanwhile saute’ diced onions and grated garlic in olive oil. 
In medium mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese and mayo.  Add sautéed onions and garlic.  Then, stir in the parmesan cheese, grated Gouda cheese, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and pinch of cayenne pepper.  Lastly incooperate the roasted mashed squash into the cheese mixture.  Stuff the roasted white squash “bowls.”  Top with Italian Panko crumbs.  Place squash "lids" skin side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.  Serve with baked pita chips.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Recipe Ideas for Common Vegetables and Fruits

Mary (my mom) as guest blogger:
There is something so satisfying about taking nature’s bounty straight from the source to your table.  This morning I poured myself a measure of oat cereal (I confess I used to eat them for fun, but now I am actually thinking about how the oats help the heart and cholesterol counts. Boy, this makes me feel old!) and headed out to the blueberry bushes to pick some treats to top it off.  I was worried about them being too dry because of the lack of rain so far this summer, but I was pleasantly reassured as soon as I spooned in the first mouthful….ummm…sweet! Nothing like standing in the sun, taking in the fruits of your labor!  Now, I am really inspired.  I have lots of blueberries. My mind is spinning. What can I do with them?  I love being creative and coming up with new ways to cook fruit and vegetables.  I am already thinking of roasting them to see what flavors it brings out and possibly pairing them with some grilled fresh pineapple.  Steering away from my first thoughts of salsa, I decide to go with a light summertime dessert of fresh fruit over frozen Chantilly cream.
*Whitney's insert: Why frozen chantilly cream and not ice cream you might ask? Well because chantilly cream is basically whipped cream flavored with vanilla. Not only is it simple to prepare but it has less sugar than ice cream and has a light and fluffy texture when frozen. Splenda could be substituted for confectioner's sugar. This could be a great dessert for someone who has diabetes or someone watching their sugar or calorie intake.

Summertime blueberry & pineapple dessert
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into 1” thin pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place blueberries on a baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan on the stovetop on medium high heat. Place pineapple pieces on hot pan until grill marks form.  Turn until lightly grilled on both sides.
Place a large scoop of frozen Chantilly cream in a dessert glass.  Top with grilled pineapple pieces and spoon over roasted blueberries with juice.  Enjoy!!  

Frozen Chantilly Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 ½ Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean seeds
Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add in 2 Tbsp. sugar. Beat until combined. Fold in vanilla bean paste or seeds. Place in a freezer safe container or freezer bag. Freeze until firm.

My counter today is literally covered with squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and this does not include the bucket of freshly dug potatoes on the back porch.  My blessings runneth over.  A friend of mine brought these over yesterday from her garden…true Southern hospitality.  Now, my challenge is to find different uses for these common garden vegetables that are so abundant at this time of year.
Sometimes I am driven by my taste buds.  Today, my tongue wanted something salty and I remembered the gift of a pack of Benton’s bacon in my fridge. Instantly the idea of a play on bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches came to mind.  Within minutes, the wonderful aroma of bacon cooking filled the kitchen as I sliced ripe, juicy red tomatoes and washed romaine, Boston Bibb, spinach, and arugula lettuces (Everybody in my family likes different lettuces for different reasons. My husband is on a special diet so his “bread” will be Boston Bibb lettuce, and my oldest daughter is pregnant and needs to raise her iron level so she is adding spinach to her sandwich.) Last, but not least, my final twist on ingredients is to add my oven-fried squash and peppers to the sandwiches.  I came up with this idea after seeing fried green tomato sandwiches; however, I wanted to use the vegetables I had on hand.  My need for heat was satisfied with the addition of the peppers.  For a lighter bread serving, I chose to serve the ingredients stuffed into pita bread and flavored with a spread of lemon aioli.

Light & Crispy Oven-fried Squash and Peppers
2 medium yellow squash, sliced
2 jalapeno peppers (I use whatever is in abundance, but I like a little heat.)
¼ cup AP or self-rising flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs (I like Italian style.)
½ cup skim milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
Spray a pizza stone with oil and leave in oven until hot. 
Toss squash and peppers in flour.  Dip in milk.  Coat in panko crumbs.  
Place on hot pizza stone and spray coated squash and peppers with oil.  Cook until lightly brown.