Posts tagged ‘menus’

Minnesota Mysteries and Boxtop Bonuses

   This is one of those sublime summer mornings when the temperature is perfect for walking and the sun beams down from a classic azure sky tufted with powder puff clouds.  The kind of day that inspires an appreciation of the blessings of the outdoors.  Infused with motivation, the pup and I take off with grateful hearts for a 45 minute pre-breakfast march through the park. 

Rounding the corner of a neighboring block and heading toward home, we are assaulted first by a blast of heavy metal rock music and then by a horrifying sight:  a woman, tucked into the far, dark, grimy recesses of her garage, labors away on a treadmill, some cable T.V. channel blaring at her as she huffs and pumps her way toward her fitness goal for the day. 

My mind screams with confusion.  Why would anyone pass up the opportunity to be outside on a day like today – anyone living in a state where residents spend half the year cursing the ice dams at the end of their driveways and yearning to leave their cabin fever behind them in a pile by the fireplace, along with the ubiquitous Minnesota lap robe? 

I have a white-blurred mental flash of all those days when many (I am the fool who trudges right on through sleet and snow) are forced inside to chug away on whatever apparatus they have managed to wedge into the last empty corner of their basement.  

Led Zeppelin fading into the distance behind us, my mind drifts to a recent Saturday when my husband and I actually ate our dinner seated on the weight-training equipment in a dank corner of our own basement, as we tracked warnings connected to a few capricious tornadoes that skittered around us. 

That night my jittery mind had entertained fears about  power surges and a fried home computer system, and losing hundreds of filed recipes, not to mention countless hours of labor spent on various writing projects.  “But wait,” I remember thinking – note my priorities, if you will – “There is a whole storehouse of good recipes printed on food packages right in my very own kitchen.” 

When the danger passed with no damage done, I scrambled upstairs to scour my cupboards for some samples, like Effortless Spinach Salad using Ocean Spray Craisins, Chicken and Dried Plum Pizza from the Mariani Premium Pitted Prunes folks, Oat Bran Muffins from everybody’s favorite grandfather figure, the Quaker Oats guy, Amaranth Date Nut Bread from the Arrowhead Mills people, and from Bob’s Red Mill, Five Grain Cookies, Tabbouleh Cracked Wheat Salad, and Outrageous Soy Flour Muffins, loaded with tasty extras.  (Recipes below.) 

Have you gone on a treasure hunt through your pantry lately? (more…)

July 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Health Care Catch-22s and Other Modern Day Challenges

   Here’s a solution to the politically-exploited “health care crisis” for you: Stay well.  Now don’t yell at me.  I know there are people beset by environmental risks beyond their control or by genetically ordained conditions.  My husband is one of them.  But those in the know tell us its the epidemic of preventable diseases that threatens to overwhelm our once-thriving medical system. 

In his 1988 Surgeon General’s report, C. Everett Koop blames the American diet for two-thirds of illness-related deaths in the U.S. each year.  Combine poor eating habits with inactivity and you can add to that grim statistic long-term suffering with heart disease, strokes, some cancers, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, chronic fatigue, stress disorders, and even Alzheimer’s.  That’s one blaring wake-up call. 

So here’s the Catch-22 part:  My husband – who discovered new hope for complications stemming from 50 years of trying to control inherited Type I diabetes by adopting Dr. Richard K. Bernstein’s approach – lost 35 pounds, reduced his overall cholesterol level by 30 per cent, brought his blood pressure into normal range, reduced the amount of insulin he takes, slashed his triglyceride count, and regained control over his blood sugars. 

Great news, huh?  You’d think he would have left the doctor’s office with a medal rather than a new prescription.  Sadly, since they keep lowering the targeted range for ideal test results, you’re less likely to get a pat on the back for progress than a skeptical scowl for declining to pump more drugs into your body – even when your earnest efforts are paying off quite nicely for you, thanks anyway. 

The logical deduction? We have to be our own researchers, educators, and advocates.  The information is out there, and it doesn’t have to be complicated – or Spartan.  Move around more; exercise pumps up the immune system and boosts insulin sensitivity.  Read labels religiously.  Better yet, prepare your own wholesome meals.  Eat a colorful variety of fresh foods.  Fill half your plate with unsauced vegetables and the rest with complex carbohydrates and lean meats. Discover how delicious seafood can be.  End each meal with fruit. 

And, of course, read my postings here whenever you have the chance.  I will always red-flag “once-in-a-while” desserts,  otherwise what you’ll get are good-tasting, nutritionally-dense offerings, like recipes for Smothered Pork Chops in White Wine, Brown Rice with Currants, Green Beans with Chopped Toasted Walnuts, and Grilled Nectarines with Crumbled Feta.  If this is sacrificing, then I’m a martyr ’til the end.  (more…)

July 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

Not-So-Odd Couples and Strange Platefellows

   Social psychologists tell us that we tend to be attracted to a mate who looks like us, having become accustomed to our own face in the mirror over a few decades and human nature predisposing us to find the familiar appealing.  There are, of course, glaring exceptions, but have you ever stopped to notice how many couples look as if they could be brother and sister? 

Figure into this theory the propensity for folks who live together to pick up each other’s mannerisms over the years, and the old saw that married couples end up looking alike is thrown into its proper light:  We probably start out more similar than we realize, and a lifetime of rubbing off on each other simply reinforces that impression to the outside world.  Not sure if that holds true for personality traits as well. 

Well, that’s me going off on a tangent again when my actual theme is the science behind combining foods to enhance the nutritional value of each component – kinda’ like my husband’s cool, rational yang completing my emotionally-charge yin.  (How’s that for a retrofitted transition?)   The whole – and again I see a parallel – being greater than the sum of its parts. 

I’ll turn my spell-checker off and give you some examples.  You guacamole purists might want to reconsider when you hear that lycopene, the highly pigmented carotenoid found in tomatoes, is more available for absorption during digestion when paired with those lovely omega-three fats in avocadoes.  And oatmeal eaten with orange juice doubles the efficacy of heart-healthy organic compounds called phenols found in each.  That’s a twofer I can appreciate, although I always opt for the additional fiber and phytonutrients of whole fruit over juice. 

I’ve listed more dynamic duos at the end of this piece, but I’ll confess to having no idea whether the combined ingredients in my Turkey, Wild Rice, and Nectarine Burgers bolster each other nutritionally, ‘though they seem to do well in the taste department.  This very simple meal – inspired by a local foodie’s Wild Rice and Blueberry Hamburgers, which sounded fascinating but had too many fat-and-calorie-boosting fillers for my tastes – can be rounded out with Ciabatta-Style Honey Wheat Buns, a big Mixed Greens Salad, Foolproof Corn on the Cob, and a bowl of Red Grapes. 

If you toss some Toasted Walnuts or Roasted Peanuts onto the salad to complete an amino acid chain with the whole wheat bread and set out a bowl of Premium Dark Chocolate to munch with the grapes, the resulting nutritional powerhouse may just knock you off your feet – a perfect position in which to nap, and perchance to dream about your future look-alike soul mate. (more…)

July 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

Summer Suppers and Questionable Quotes

   “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” or so penned some dyslexic copywriter in that 70’s public service announcement, thus driving my grammar-conscious father mad with frustration.  While I would agree that to waste one’s intellect is appalling, I rather think the mind can be a weird and wonderful apparatus.  In my case trending toward weird, as when I get an out-of-nowhere quote stuck in it, setting off an inexplicable flash through neural pathways that seem to have little connection to one another.

A recent example is the clever Charles Dudley Warner quote cited in a lecture by Mark Twain, “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.”  This lodged itself in my thoughts during a recent rainy spell and set me to imagining what it would be like if God got bored and handed the weather-management assignment off to a human being.  Who would possibly qualify for that responsibility? 

Or (flash) what if every one of us possessed that power?  Here my intra-cranial movie screen projects an image of each of us walking around in our own little sub-climate bubbles, everyone indulging in their own idea of ideal.  We might never get enough accumulated rain to avoid parching, and then there would be all of those mini tornadoes whenever one person’s bubble of warm and dry bumped up against the next guy’s pocket of cool and wet. 

The current arrangement certainly makes more sense:  If you like dry heat, there’s Phoenix.  Prefer distinct seasonal changes?  Try Minnesota or Illinois.  Dreams of a tropical paradise?  Move to Hawaii or even Samoa.  Cool and remote?  Alaska, of course.  Eventually my fanciful flight touches down on the reasonable conclusion that I should stop, already, with the “complaining about it” and adapt.  I put on a water-repellant hat and rediscover the childhood joy of walking in the rain, and later, as things get steamy,  plop a roast into the crock pot and watch the neighbor’s dog dive into her own inflatable kiddie pool. 

With the air conditioner circulating dehumidified air and no heat emanating from the kitchen, our dinner of Loin Pork Roast with Onions and Sweet Potatoes, and sides of Sauteed Bok Choy with Sugar Snap Peas, Cucumber and Tomato Salad, and  Raspberry-Nectarine Five Grain Muffins goes down just fine.  We finish the meal with our own cool splash in the form of Slabs of Chilled Watermelon, and think ahead to a leisurely evening stroll in whatever conditions the Master Meteorologist doles out to us.  No complaints; I promise.  (more…)

June 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Frankfurter Fantasies and Quick Quiche

   Sensory memory.  For me, that concept translates to strolling by a grammar school cookout in June, 2010, and being engulfed by multiple vivid sensations, a surge of yearning swelling my chest.  Dramatic, perhaps, but this passing exposure to youthful laughter and romping third graders transported me right back there

With the snap of a mental shutter, I could see my eight-year-old self scuttering along in my little blue, knife-pleated cotton skorts, gleefully hopping onto the child-propelled park merry-go-round; with the whiff of grilling Oscar Mayers, I could sense that great mushy fluff of bun filling my mouth and feel the pop of the hot dog skin against my teeth, spilling rich, juicy goodness and the sting of yellow mustard onto my tongue, soon followed by the substantial crunch of a cascade of curly Fritos from my own little personal chip bag.  Later, maybe a  Hostess Twinkie® or a banana Popsicle® for dessert. 

I used to cherish the specialness of such a break from the yearlong routine, and today a warm flush creeps over me just contemplating the multiple joys of picnic food and sweet anticipation captured in that last-day-of-school outing.  Being blessed with a greater understanding of nutrition and a body that has acquired its own wisdom, I doubt that I’d find the same innocent pleasure in those fondly remembered treats now.  But I do rush home from my walk and grill up a nice chunk of smoked turkey sausage, slap it on an Ezekiel bun slathered with dijonnaise, and throw some carrot sticks and radishes on the plate for that requisite complementary crunch.  Add a mound of simple Three-Bean Salad, and my grown-up palate is saturated with satisfaction.  Yogurt-Dipped Frozen Bananas could serve as an updated dessert. 

Meanwhile, the combined lifetime habits of word-association and multi-tasking soon lead me back to the future to devise the perfect after-church brunch menu for a beloved former pastor and his (equally beloved) wife, which I offer to you as a reward for having indulged me in my hazy ramble through a snippet of childhood.  We’ll start with a Sausage and Cheese Two-Way Quiche, then add Broccoli Salad, a big bowl of Cubed Apples with Grapefruit and Orange Sections, and to round things out, Squash-Sweet Potato Bake and Toasted Whole Wheat Bagels.  And for the reformed Twinkie eaters in the group, Whole Grain Banana-Pear Date Cake.  See; being a grown-up can be fun, too. (more…)

June 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm Leave a comment

Here Comes Summer – Blam!

   Well this must be Tuesday, because here I am sweltering. It started in earnest on Sunday – a fitting day for earnestness – and by Monday my front porch thermometer measured 98° and the humidity hit 50%.  Brisk breezes make midday walks tolerable, but the air conditioner cranks away grudgingly in the bowels of this old house of ours.  The stealth attack of summer heat had me frantically racing around last weekend digging tee shirts out of storage, having re-prioritized “summer clothes retrieval” on my To Do list a half-dozen times in as many weeks. 

Once I’d located a few sleeveless tops and some capris, I slowed down to enjoy the stroll down memory lane that my seasonal clothing transfer evokes.  There is the purple cotton knit Love and Peace-embroidered  Henley shirt from the summer of 70-something and a few halter dresses that I made from McCall’s patterns around the same era.  The dresses come in handy for indoor-only wear when even Old Faithful chugging away under the floorboards can’t quite cool the far edges of the house.  And of course my mother’s White Stag tennis shorts from the 40s always bring a flicker of a smile to my face as I mentally recapture images of sepia-tinged family photos of her wearing them.

This in turn reminds me of old family dinner favorites, now copied onto dog-eared three-by-five cards in my own recipe box, waiting for some expression of interest from the next generation of cooks.  What better way to stimulate that interest than to whip up a retro meal of Mom’s standby dishes.  I settle on a main course called, simply, Chinese Beef, making a few very minor updates, and then try to remember what she used to serve with it.  White Rice, of course, although a nice brown basmati would work well, and perhaps a small salad of Mandarin Oranges and Spinach with Toasted Almonds. 

Dessert is easy – my mother’s favorite go-to quick finish:  Coffee Ice Cream Parfaits.  (more…)

May 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Stewing Over The Weather

   Let’s see now:  We had summer in early April and autumn in early May.  The poor little irises were quaking in their roots, but we bravely carried on, fueled by comforting culinary concoctions.  As I savored a few days of freedom to steam up the kitchen, I reminded myself that I’ll be wishing for a little of this “coolth” when I’m sweltering away in – oh, I don’t know…October, maybe?  Or perhaps next Tuesday. 

With last week starting out gloomy and cold, I made soup three times and stew once, so today’s ruminations are dominated by thoughts of one-mish-deals, as my dear father-in-law used to call them.  Wednesday, an unconventional but heart-healthy lunch of sardines on Rye Crisp® and a simple lentil soup made by softening 2/3 cups each of chopped red onion, chopped celery, and chopped green pepper in a bit of canola oil in a heavy pot, adding this to lentils (1/2 cup dried, cooked for 25 minutes in four cups of water), then “souping up” the combination with a 14 oz can of chicken stock.  Throw in a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning and there you go, or I went, or whatever.  You could add chopped ham for protein if you’re forgoing the sardines in spite of the testimonial below.  Makes about two servings. 

According to, sardines are a storehouse of nutritional value offering omega 3 essential fatty acids, rich supplies of vitamin D, Vitamin B12 (for a healthy nervous system), and calcium – made more absorbable by the vitamin D.  They are also one of the few food sources rich in phosphorus (a boon to kidneys, bones, and teeth), and they are low in calories.  Enhance their mild flavor with a pinch of onion powder, perhaps, and munch them, bones and all, on whole grain crackers for a guiltless pleasure.  For a tongue-tantalizing treat, top off this meal with a few slabs of caramelized mango, peeled and cooked au naturel over medium low on a grill pan for at least 30 minutes. 

For the less adventuresome, how about a nice bowl of Pea and Sweet Potato Soup topped with Pulled Parmesan Croutons, Creamy Potato Soup with Gruyère, or Pork Stew with Garbanzo Beans.  And for dessert, a Brown Rice Pudding with Dates and Sugared Almonds – inspired by my well-worn 1965 Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Dare we call this a polite way to thumb our noses at Mother Nature?    (more…)

May 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm Leave a comment

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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