Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hey Friends...

I just wanted to stop by & explain that I have been experiencing formatting issues with Blogger & thus have a number of posts in draft form waiting to be posted. I am actively pursuing a solution which looks like a switch to another host site. I am probably more disappointed than you in the delay of new posts. I hope you will be patient & bear with me while I make the changes...I promise to make it worth the wait :)

See you soon!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Healthcare Reform 101...

Ahhh...finally a topic that has not been beaten like a red-headed stepchild. That was for dramatic effect, by the way...I like red-heads. I could possibly have stepchildren of my own someday...& I have no plans to beat them...unless of course they complain about my cooking ;)

Which brings me back to my original point. Healthcare. Reform.

Health. It is so subjective...not the mere absence of disease, but the optimal functioning of an individual regardless of their actual health status.

Reform. It is an individual taking personal responsibility for changing old & adopting new lifestyles...nutritionally, physically, mentally, choice at a time.

Combined, it is ATTITUDE & bite-sized (pun intended) chunks...that over time will transform you from the inside out...allowing you to be the BEST VERSION of the person you were created to be.

Of course, this is my two cents in a nutshell. Speaking of nuts...I want to show you through one small example how powerful, transforming, & exciting the little individual elements of nutrition can be!

WALNUTS: Health benefits
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids - a special type of protective fat utilized by every cell of the body that cannot be manufactured by the body; 1/4 cup = 90.8% of daily recommended; heart health; brain functioning; anti-inflammatory properties which help with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema & psoriasis; flexibility & permeability of cell walls allowing nutrients to pass through & toxins to be eliminated

Ellagic Acid - antioxidant beneficial to the immune system; anti-cancer properties

Melatonin - hormone that aids in sleep; antioxidant

ALA (alpha linolenic acid) - essential for bone health; converts to EPA which is utilized for cellular energy

Manganese & Copper - minerals which are important cofactors for enzymes that are critical for antioxidant defense

Decreased Risk of Weight Gain - a source of healthy fat which is essential for moving unhealthy fats through & out of the body

Ways to Enjoy Them in the Diet:
Toasted & added to oatmeal, veggies, salads
Add to plain yogurt with honey or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup as a snack (about 4 walnuts/8 walnut halves)

Prepare them for Eating:
Place about 2 cups of walnuts on a baking sheet. Toast in a 170 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. The low heat protects the natural oils from being damaged. Store in an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 6 months/freezer for up to 1 year to avoid rancidity of the oils.

"Armed & Dangerous" Oatmeal
1 Serving

1 cup water
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp agave syrup
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 tsp toasted pepitas
1 tsp golden raisins
1 tsp dried cherries

Place all ingredients in a saucepan & bring to a boil while stirring. Remove from heat, cover, & let sit for 7 minutes. Will still have a bit of chew to the oats but be creamy. Enjoy your energetic start to the day!

Note: Quick-cook oats are acceptable. They have, however, been processed & have lost some nutritional value including fiber. They will not leave you filling full for as long. They are a much better option than microwave oatmeal which I never recommend, partly because they are highly processed, have too much added sugar, & recommend radiating your meal which will deplete any nutrional value (also giving you a gummy instead of creamy end product). The optimal version of oats are steel cut which do require longing cooking time but give you a thicker chewier bowl of goodness.
I encourage you to establish & adopt your own definition of Healthcare Reform for your life. And don't forget...never...underestimate the power of a nut!
To Health,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Irish Eyes Are Smilin'...

I've heard it said that the Irish consume all that green beer during the day in order to partake in the corned beef & cabbage at supper time...

March 17 is traditionally a religious holiday on the Emerald Isle in honor of Saint Patrick, born in either Scotland or Wales, the son of Roman parents living in Britain...with all that heritage, it is appropriate that this holiday is celebrated across many cultures! He & his disciples are responsible for the Irish conversion to Christianity. The three leaves of the shamrock were a visual representation of the Christian Trinity.

It was not until the 1970's that the pubs in Ireland were open for business on March 17...part of a campaign to raise tourism & showcase Ireland to the rest of the world...& the rest of the world has been wearing green, chasing leprechauns & raising a pint of green beer to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day ever since.

Even as an Irish girl, I'm not a big fan of corned beef...& because the Great Potato Famine in 1845 fueled the Irish immigration to family is going to have a big bowl of golden potato & leek soup to honor our Irish roots.

Pot O' Gold Potato & Leek Soup
Serves 8

4 leeks, trimmed & cut in 1/2" slices
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
6 medium or 8 small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered & sliced thin
8 cups organic chicken broth (I like to use Imagine)
*2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken (optional for a heartier protein rich soup)
3 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
3 Tbsp cold water
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Trim the thick green ends & root away from the leeks. Cut in 1/2 lengthwise & then in 1/2" slices. Soak in water to wash away any dirt & then rinse & drain.

In a medium soup pot over medium heat, combine olive oil, bay leaf, salt, pepper, & leaks. Soften leaks for about a minute. Add potato slices & chicken broth. Cover the pot & bring to a boil then remove cover & reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Remove bay leaf. (*For a heartier meal, add about 2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken at this stage.)

In a small bowl, combine arrowroot or cornstarch with cold water & mix well. Return the soup to a boil. Add this mixture to the soup pot & stir. Let cook for 5 more minutes. Reduce heat. Add more salt & pepper if necessary. Stir in parsley. Serve & Enjoy!

A toast to you my friends, in good ol' Irish fashion...Here's to cheating, stealing, fighting & drinking. If you should cheat, cheat death. If you steal, steal a woman's heart. If you fight, fight for a brother. And if you drink, drink with me!!



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And Then There Were None...

I live in Colorado now...& I love snow...for a few weeks. My plan was to escape my Winter for a long weekend in my home state...TEXAS!

I will arrive in Austin...just in time for their next forecasted snow storm...(& yes, I said next). SERIOUSLY?

When I am getting ready to travel, I take inventory of my refrigerator contents...I hate for food to spoil...especially my beautiful fresh produce. I lay everything out on the kitchen counter & then I get very creative...tonight, it was a masterpiece!

Rotisserie Chicken & Veggie Paella
Serves 6-8

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper, small dice
1 or 2 Portobello mushrooms, large dice
1 tsp paprika (not smoked)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup uncooked brown rice (quick cook)
2 cups chicken stock (I used Kitchen Basics)
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 Rotisserie chicken, deboned & chopped
8 oz fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a lid or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion & garlic & saute until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper & mushrooms. Saute down while stirring until softened, 3-4 minutes.

Combine paprika, oregano, thyme, black & cayenne peppers in a small bowl. Add to the pan & stir well. Continue cooking for about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, uncooked rice, tomatoes, & salt. Stir well. Bring to a boil, & then reduce heat & cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in vinegar. Add spinach, peas, & chicken. Replace cover & cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat & let sit covered for 5 more minutes. Serve & enjoy!

I realize this seems like alot of ingredients, but it really came together quickly. Six of the ingredients are dry seasonings & the olive oil is a not as lengthy as it might appear.

My refrigerator is officially bare...making me travel ready. But better yet, after dinner, I overheard my son telling his friend that his mom just made "the best dinner ever" mission more than accomplished!!

Y'all Enjoy Now,


Monday, February 15, 2010

"Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone..."

"He Must Also Have Peanut Butter." ~President James A. Garfield

This very well may have been the first government proclamation of the importance of a balanced diet!

While I posted this in honor of Presidents' might find it interesting to know that this holiday is officially Washington's Birthday...which actually falls on February 22...the celebration of which was moved to the third Monday in 1968. The holiday name change was never authorized by Congress...yet "popular usage" by the people has made it so. I wonder what else we could "make so"...?!?

I suppose if I were actually preparing a Birthday dinner for George Washington, I would have chosen a menu more befitting of a President...but in light of the current economy...Green Chili Stew it is... :)

Green Chili Stew
Serves 8

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin, sliced 1/2" thick
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
6 cups organic chicken stock
1 lb red potatoes, 1/2" cubed
2 small carrots, sliced
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups mild roasted, diced green chilies (see note)
3 Tbsp red bell pepper, small dice
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Brown the tenderloin in batches & set aside. Reduce to a medium heat. Saute the onion & garlic in the remaining oil until the onions are golden. Add the meat back to the pot along with any juices. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, carrots, & salt and bring this mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat & simmer for one hour.

Break up the pork tenderloin if needed. Add the green chilies & red bell pepper. Simmer for additional 20 minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips & Enjoy!

Note: Use canned or fresh chilies depending on availability. If you like your stew with a little more heat, you can use 1 cup mild & 1 cup hot green chilies. I found that using all mild chilies still had plenty of kick & my kids were able to enjoy it...adjust according to your family preferences.

So, Happy Birthday Mr. President...with a cherry on top!



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants...

When it comes to matters of the heart, it is easy to lose focus, get your priorities out of line, & completely ignore the big picture.

You know what I'm talking about...

My freshman year...I arranged my class schedule around Greg & Jenny.

Luke & Laura had total control of my sophomore calendar. And Beau & Hope...they've captured decades of our time & are still at it.

My own grandfather had only one "show" that he would not miss...As the World Turns. OK...that was not completely honest, there were two shows...the second was "wrastlin" (which was often more believable than any of the aforementioned)...but I digress.

Regardless of age or gender...our hearts are drawn...sometimes unexplainably & almost magnetically to these stories. Relationships that sometimes nurture & thrive...and other times, harm & destroy.

February is all about the Heart...specifically, heart disease...the number one killer of women & men. Are you giving your heart the nurturing "ingredients" it needs to thrive?

I prepared a scrumptious meal that is FULL of heart healthy 3's, folate (B-12), alpha & beta carotenes (lutein & lycopene), beta-sitosterols, lignans, allicin...all top "ticker" benefits!

Treat yourself to the BEST Valentine...Love your own Heart!!

Salmon & Avocado with Sesame Tamari Dressing
2 servings

3 Tbsp Tamari, divided
12 oz wild caught Salmon fillet, cut in half
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, finely minced
pinch fine sea salt
1 firm, ripe avocado, chilled
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat broiler. Place baking pan under broiler for 5 minutes. Brush salmon with 1 Tbsp of the tamari. Place the salmon on the heated baking sheet (allowing it to cook from the top & bottom simultaneously) and put under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. Salmon should flake easily with a fork when done.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining tamari, rice vinegar, lemon juice, sesame oil, agave, ginger, garlic, & salt. Pit & peel the avocado & cut into 1/2" dice. Add the avocado to the dressing & gently combine. Plate the cooked salmon & top with avocado dressing. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds & serve.

Before you say "I hate salmon", I dare you to give this a try...most people just have not had it prepared flavorfully. My kids were literally asking to lick their plates after this meal...I reminded them that was somewhat canine in approach although I appreciated the compliment :)

Tamari: a gluten free soy sauce. I choose it because I like to avoid gluten when possible & it is lower in sodium. It is available in most markets & typically shelved with the soy sauces. I've included a link to the brand I typically see & buy so that you know what it looks like.

Broccoli & Sundried Tomatoes
2 servings

1 small bunch broccoli, stemmed & cut into florets
2 oz sundried tomatoes (usually with the dried fruits, not in heavy oils & spices)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer & plunge the broccoli into the water for 3 minutes. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add garlic & sundried tomatoes & saute. Drain broccoli & add to the skillet. Toss the broccoli with the tomatoes & continue to heat for about 5 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste.

Treating our hearts & the hearts of those we love with this kind of TLC will help insure that we keep All My Children out of General Hospital all the Days of Our Lives ;)

Be My Valentine,


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Here's Lookin' At You...

Just a few days away from the Creole Superbowl (kinda catchy?!?)...& I'm reminded of my first visit to Louisiana.

The last few days of Summer before my Junior year at Baylor University, I traveled with a small group of my sorority sisters to Louisiana State University. Our support the ADPi House with their Summer rush for new pledges & to have fun in the process...the primary goal of any serious college student :)

We were welcomed enthusiastically & graciously invited into their House. After a full day of meet & greet with potential new sisters, we gathered eagerly around the long dining tables...this group of sassy young sorority girls...famished!

Dinner was served...& it was...looking at me!

Now I didn't know much about Cajun cuisine. I'm talking Yellow Rose of Texas Southern girl...& in Texas, you might get your steak rare...but even then, the eyes would NOT be included! There I was ...face to face with hundreds of tiny crustaceans...struggling...conflicted! What would Emily Post do right now? And if I were able to consult her Guide to Etiquette, what indeed would she say about sucking the brains out of the crawdad head after consuming the almond sized piece of "meat" they had to offer?

I did what any well-mannered Southern girl would do in this moment...I asked...very politely..."where is the closest pizza parlor?"

In the years since then, I have had the pleasure of experiencing a wide variety of Creole dishes...discovering along the way that most will NOT be looking at me! I have a personal favorite spice blend that I have used to give a number of ordinary recipes a little Louisiana Lagniappe (lan-yap)...translation: a little something special :)

Creole Spice Blend
2/3 cup

2 1/2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme

Place all spices in a blender & pulse until well blended. Store in an airtight container. (A good alternative to purchase is Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning which contains no MSG.)

Bayou Country Meatloaf
6 servings

1 lb lean ground turkey or beef
1 cup (8 oz) organic tomato sauce, divided
1 cup prepared brown rice
1/4 medium onion, chopped
4 drops Tobasco sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can organic stewed tomatoes
1 tsp prepared brown mustard
1 tsp Creole Spice Blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan with butter or butter flavored cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine meat, 1/3 cup tomato sauce, brown rice, onion & Tobasco. Mix well. Press meat into loaf pan & bake for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine remaining 2/3 cup tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, mustard, & spice blend. Pour tomato mixture over meatloaf & bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven & let rest for 10 minutes before serving. This is a super moist meatloaf...good to the last bite!

Cajun in The City Salad
4 servings

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp Creole Spice Blend
6 cups Romaine lettuce
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 ripe but firm Bosc pear, cored & sliced
1 sweet tart apple (Honey Crisp, Pink Lady), cored & diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Combine first four ingredients until smooth & well blended to make a dressing. Can be prepared a day ahead.

When ready to serve, toss Romaine lettuce with dressing & divide onto 4 plates. Top with remaining ingredients & serve.

Excellent accompaniment to roasted BBQ chicken or grilled salmon. As an entree salad, divide ingredients onto 2 plates & top with a serving of chicken or salmon.

The Waldorf salad was created at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1896 by the maitre d'hotel, Oscar Tschirky, & became an instant success. The original version contained only apples, celery & mayonnaise.

So, even if you're not cheering for the Saints on Sunday, I hope you enjoy a bit of what their culture has to offer even in the most ordinary of recipes!

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler,