Need a way to increase your intake of vegetables ... fiber ... nutrition? Try stuffing it ... vegetables, that is! Nature has provided us with the most amazing bowls!
Rather than eating a baked potato dripping with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper, try ...
Twice Baked Potatoes
Scrub two large Idaho potatoes. Pop them into a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. They’ll be done when the potato ‘gives’ a little when you give it a squeeze. When cool enough to handle - I never wait long enough - cut it in half the long way and scoop out the potato into a large bowl leaving about a quarter inch inside the skin. Smash the potato gently. Add a bit of plain yogurt, a little butter and a little salt and pepper. While the potato is still quite warm, add:
Serves 4 people or 2 if you use the twice baked potatoes as a main dish ... which I often do!
There are endless variations to these potatoes ... what’s your favorite?
Cut a thin slice of the top of the zucchinis and scoop out the inside of the squash leaving the shell. Diced scooped out zucchini and place in a large bowl.
Drizzle the insides of the squash with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. While the squash shells are in the oven, start browning your ground meat, when the meat is almost brown, add the onions, eggplant, and diced excess zucchini, and cook until the eggplant is soft.
Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Pull the shells out of the oven and stuff them all as full as possible with the meat (or meatless) mixture. Put the stuffed zucchinis back into the oven and bake for another 30-40 minutes. You may need less time for smaller zucchinis.
Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan, add the couscous, cover the pan and remove it from the heat.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut the stems and top half inch off the bell peppers and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Boil trimmed peppers for 5 minutes, then drain them upside down (Note: I usually skip this step as I like my peppers a bit crunchy.)
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion, zucchini, yellow squash, fennel seeds, oregano, and salt.
Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes and chickpeas.
Using a fork, scrape the couscous into the skillet and toss with the vegetables. Stir in the crumbled feta. Place peppers upright in the baking dish and fill them with couscous. Bake 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Read more about this recipe.
Trim the stems from the eggplant, and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the pulp from the center of each half, leaving about a half-inch shell.
If your eggplants are large, soak them in a quart of water with an added tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes to remove any bitter flavor.
Remove the eggplants from the brine and rinse off the salt then pat them dry.
Cube the pulp into a medium dice. Place a large saute pan over moderate heat, then add the oil.
Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, zucchini, pepper, and cubed eggplant. Cook, stirring until very tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, olives and seasonings and heat through.
Lightly spray the cut edges of the eggplant with nonstick cooking spray, then spoon a quarter of the mixture into each shell. Top each eggplant with a quarter of the cheeses. Place in a baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray.
You can add other vegetables like mushrooms, hot peppers, shredded carrots if you've got them.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the eggplant is hot and the cheese is bubbly.
Stuff your favorite salad into a fresh tomato! Cut the top off a tomato, scoop out the pulp (you can save it for chili or spaghetti sauce) and fill with your favorite chicken salad ... or tuna salad ... or salmon salad ... or pasta salad! The variations are endless!
Do we really have to be told to eat 5-a-day? Or eat at the family table? Or to read to our kids? Don't we already know this? Why do we have to be reminded? Well, I don’t know either, but I was thinking about the 5-a-day thing earlier and decided to see if I made the cut. Reviewing the last week and depending entirely on my memory (OK, and my menu list posted on the frig) I discovered I do indeed eat five servings of fruit/vegetables every day. In fact, it’s more than that. Am I odd? Apparently. I asked several random people at WalMart how many servings of fruit and vegetables they ate last week and was shocked to hear some of their answers!
Oh, America ... heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer? What will it take to become accountable for our own health? And, hold each other accountable? Death? Too late. Have we gained no knowledge from our ancestors and their medical histories? Apparently hindsight is not 20/20 or we would have learned something!! My paternal grandfather died of lung cancer - I do not smoke, never have. My father colon cancer ... I eat a high fiber diet, get plenty of exercise, and partake in routine colonoscopies. What's in your family's history? What have you done to address that history? What changes have you made?
I thought maybe if some of my readers struggled to get 5-a-day - I'd list some ideas that work for me ... so, let’s get started ...
For breakfast, it’s easy ... a banana on your whole grain cereal with lowfat milk or milk alternative, apple slices with peanut butter, oatmeal with fresh fruit or canned peaches in juice with a dash of cinnamon or have ½ a grapefruit, a bunch of grapes, or whatever you like and a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and/or jam. Having eggs? A seasonal fruit compote only takes a minute to put together or alternate layers in a tall glass with a good low fat plain yogurt and some low sugar granola and you have a great breakfast that only takes a minute.
Lunch is easy ... if you’re having a sandwich, double or triple the veggies on it ... romaine lettuce, fresh spinach, several slices of tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, green peppers ... my favorite sandwich is a salad sandwich usually in a pita with a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar sprinkled over top. Having a salad for lunch ... try fresh spinach, plenty of tomatoes, diced red and green apples, yellow, red, and/or green peppers, dried fruit (cranberries are especially good), mandarin oranges, fresh pears, feta or bleu cheese, and a fruit dressing, used sparingly, of course. Add some grilled chicken, salmon, tunafish, or ham and you have a whopping serving of vegetables and fruit.
American dinners are often fast-food - on the way to a kid’s game, dance class, etc. - or it's the biggest meal of the day. There is truth in the saying, ‘eat like a king at breakfast, a queen at lunch, and a pauper at dinner.’ Eating a heavy meal at the end of the day isn’t a good idea. So, what’s the best way to get fruit and vegetables at dinnertime? Salad would be the obvious answer ... but there are other options: pile on the vegetables next to a 3 or 4 ounce of lean meat. And don’t be afraid to toss some vegetables on the grill ... cut zucchini in half lengthwise is great on the grill. Or make a vegetarian stir-fry with bok choy, fresh mushrooms, peppers, onions, snowpeas, carrots, broccoli, water chestnuts, bean sprouts and the list goes on and on - then serve it on brown rice with a splash of low salt soy sauce or liquid aminos is even better!
One of my favorite dinners is a huge, fresh, red-ripe tomato. I cut the top off and scoop out the seeds and fill the tomato with whatever I feel like ... salmon salad, tossed salad, tuna salad, whatever and enjoy!
Snacks? Too easy .................. grab an apple, a bunch of grapes, a banana, and those are just the obvious ones ... step outside the box and eat a kiwi, mangos, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and the list is endless!
Hungry? Reach passed the chips, crackers, cookies, and soda and dive into the wonders of fruits and vegetables ... you won’t be disappointed and your body will thank you!
I’d love to hear how you incorporate fruits and vegetables into your meals ... want to share? Leave a comment!
I don’t know where you live, but in my neck of the woods last weekend it was windows open, BBQ aromas filling the air right along with the decadent scents of blooming azaleas, dogwood, tulips, wisteria, and daffodils. Spring has sprung!! And where does that leave us when the burgers and dogs hit the grill? Hungry? No ... there are many options open to those of us who opt for a lighter fare in the interest of a healthier heart. But what if you’re going to a friend’s home where you know the meal will consist of burgers, hot dogs on white buns with a side of chips? Do you have to beg off saying you’re already eaten and starve? Do you eat before you go then pass when your hostess offers you food? Do you brown bag it? Well, you could, but how about offering to bring a salad to share? The last time I did this, the hostess and her guests really enjoyed my offering!
So how about it? As the spring and summer weekends inch in and everyone’s itching to fire up the grill ... let’s talk about some options.
Potato Salad Recipe (sans mayo)
If you are worried about eating potatoes because of their bad reputation (yeah, potatoes don't make you fat - it's what you put on them!!) eat potatoes with the skin on to ensure you are getting all the minerals to help to balance your blood sugar - and that's pretty important.
Need another option for potatoes? Try these Grilled Peppered Sweet Potatoes:
OK, here’s a Coleslaw Recipe, too:
Got some die-hard burger eaters in your world? Go ahead and throw on some burgers but select a good quality meat and offer many condiments (fresh tomatoes, lettuce, onion, mushrooms, avocados, sprouts, spinach, low fat mozzarella, etc.) and serve on whole grain buns with a side of healthy baked beans and a salad and/or some grilled vegetables.
Looking for a yummy grilled appetizer? Ohhh I found this recipe and can't wait to try it:
Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs and Cheese (from Health magazine)
Around my house there is a telltale sign I’ve “done something” or “added something” gross when my family hears me ask, “Was that good?” or “Did you like that?” Their immediate response is, “Why, what’s in there?” Then they wait to hear what atrocity I’ve forced upon them ... tofu, soybeans, whole wheat, wheat germ, or some concoction they’ve not liked in the past but I managed to “hide” better this time. OK, I”ll admit it ... I do sneak in the good stuff while I’m alone in my kitchen. But so far as “what’s in there?” ... more likely the question should be “what’s not in there?” ... saturated fats, white flour, white sugar, etc.
My husband recently learned his cholesterol is a bit elevated, nothing to really worry about, but good to be aware. My husband is a meat-eater, without a doubt. He could easily eat a 32-ounce ribeye, fat and all, without blinking an eye. He loves steak tartar (freshly ground raw beef) on white bread (or pumpernickel if we have it), slathered with butter, an whopping slice of onion, and plenty of salt and pepper. He grew up in the fifties where many of us made choices that are affecting our health today. We learn as we go and do the best we can with the knowledge we have ... if we’re one of the lucky ones. Every day I hear of someone who has had a heart attack, then continue to eat the way they always have. Change can be scary and many people have the attitude that they can have what they want when they want it. Of course, genetics plays a huge role, but I, for one, will look at my genetics and adjust what I can to be the best I can be.
As the primary meal planner/preparer, what are my options as I prepare meals for my family? It’s simple, really ... here’s a quick list of some easy things to do promote heart health for your family:
Pierce the spaghetti squash several times and place in microwave - five minutes per pound. Once you can press the squash and you feel it give a little, it’s done. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then cut in half lengthwise; remove the seeds, and with a fork, pull from top to bottom creating spaghetti-like strands. Put in an 8 x 8 inch square pan and set aside.
Put cherry tomatoes, onion, and zucchini on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle oil over all and sprinkle with thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and toss mixture to coat with oil and seasonings.
Place vegetable mix on top rack of the oven. Bake a ½ hour at 325 degrees stirring to avoid scorching. Toss roasted vegetables with spaghetti squash and put into a warmed bowl.
This is really good with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled over all.
To make this a complete protein, add chickpeas or other bean of choice. The dish likely lends itself to many options, including tofu, fresh spinach, mushrooms, yellow squash, broccoli, etc. The options are endless!
Bottom line? Yes, I do sneak new or disliked foods into well-liked dishes I prepare for my family.
I had to be a bit more clever when it came to the switch from white rice to brown rice. It was a bit trickier, especially since white rice cooks so much faster than brown rice, but for the record, I put one-half cup of brown rice in a skillet (with a cover) and heated it (yes, without water), until I started to smell it, then I added three cups of water and a pinch of salt. About thirty minutes later, I added a cup of white rice and in fifteen minutes I had a brown rice/white rice mix ... I kept adjusting the brown/white ratio until my family accepted the brown rice by itself (OK, it took about a year, but it finally worked). Long cooking or steel-cut oatmeal was another time consuming swap. Eating the package type of oatmeal provides too much sugar and to make it quick cooking manufacturer’s rob the oatmeal of all redeeming qualities! A better option I’ve found is to put a cup of regular oatmeal (I haven’t tried this method with steel-cut oats yet) and put it into a 2-quart thermos. Add two cups of boiling water and a handful of raisins (dates, currents, dried cranberries, etc.) and put the on the top. Wrap the thermos in a large bath towel and place on the kitchen counter. In the morning you will have four servings of luscious oatmeal. Just add some local honey and a splash of soymilk (or whatever) and enjoy.
Now, go ahead ... get sneaky ... get creative ... take a chance. What’s the worse that can happen? OK, someone can say, “Yuk!” ... but it’s not like you haven’t heard THAT before!
I am ...
... a former blogger for a health site, which means eating healthy aka heart smart
which has become a passion for me. I will start at the beginning when I first
discovered I had high cholesterol.