About Me

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My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Snacks on the run

It can be hard to come up with a healthy snack on the run, especially if you’re always on the run. So it’s a good idea to plan ahead and have snacks with you.

I often carry a granola bar (Nature Valley Original Honey and Oat Granola Bar’s the one for me, as it has no high-fructose corn syrup). Another thing I often carry with me is a measured amount of mixed fruits and nuts in a zippered sandwich bag. (These also will keep well in a desk drawer, along with other snacks, such as instant oatmeal packets. They are not just for breakfast!)

Women have a bit of an advantage in that we can carry either of these snacks in our purse. (I’m frankly of the opinion that it’s amazing how much stuff the huge “mom” bags will hold, anyway. There’s definitely room for a granola bar or the fruit/nut mix, preferably in a side zipper pocket so it’s not squished at the bottom of the purse.)

Guys: your lunch bag, briefcase or a zippered coat pocket would be a good location for the dried fruit and nuts. Even the glove box works, although the mixture gets a bit too hard when it’s below freezing. You’ll want to thaw before eating in that case.

Fruit is another good snack to keep in your desk, work frig or in your car. Don’t leave fruit in the car in the heat or in freezing weather. I can attest to the fact that hot bananas do not taste good. Also, most whole fruit — aside from berries — will not have a very desirable texture after it’s been frozen.

Other healthy snacks include:

Hummus and your choice of cut veggies (red pepper and cucumber slices are good choices, but I also like hummus on crackers)

Rolled-up lunchmeat and soy/dairy cheese slices, which will give you a protein boost.

English muffin “pizza.” This can cross the line into meal territory. I use a half-muffin for a snack or two halves for a light lunch. Toast the whole-wheat or other high-fiber English muffin half or halves first, then lightly top with tomato sauce, low-fat soy or dairy cheese, and your choice of veggies or lean meat, such as ham or Canadian bacon. (It just doesn’t work with too many toppings on it.) Put in microwave for a few seconds, until the cheese is melted. You could heat the already-topped muffin half/halves in a toaster oven (usually about 5 minutes on “toast” in mine; yours may be different). Be sure to keep an eye out for your “crust” burning.

What’s your favorite healthy snack? Let me know and include your name and city. I’ll feature any snacks I like in another blog and credit them to you!

Dealing with desserts

Dealing with desserts

Stop! Put down that fork and think for a minute before you head for the dessert table at that party. If you’re like me, you want to fit into the same size (or a smaller one) this summer.

It’s already funeral/wedding/birthday/graduation season in my neck of the woods. I realized last week that I hadn’t even started to plan my strategy. This type of event can be a real pitfall to healthy eating, but the worst part for many people is dealing with the dessert table.

Pre-planning is crucial to avoid overeating on these occasions. Here’s my strategy for all the birthdays, weddings and graduation parties coming my way starting in May: Saunter past the dessert table first and mentally make a first and second choice (if one is gone, you can still choose quickly). I find it best to grab a single pastry or brownie and make a run for it.

If you’re having fruit salad or a small cookie for dessert, go ahead and have a bit of potato salad. I mostly used a ¼-cup rule (don’t put more than ¼-cup of anything on your plate) at the last funeral luncheon I attended. You may also want to try to make sure half your plate is either fruits or vegetables of some kind (potato salad does not count).

If you are bringing something to a potluck, you can always bring a side dish or appetizer that in a larger quantity could serve as a main course, such as Greek salad (see Rachel Ray's Greek salad, which sounds pretty good). Enjoy the salad and one or two small treats.

An article in Web MD gives additional information that will help you have fun at a party without sacrificing good health guidelines.

My final word: Unless you love absolutely love cake, you may want to consider choosing another dessert. I find most cakes (particularly the frosting) to be too sweet, and generally, not worth the additional calories. If either my friend, Tatiana, or my cousin-by-marriage, Julie, is making a cake or pie, I will have a piece. It’s one of those cases where a substitute just won’t do.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Not Another Healthy Recipe Blog

This is not just another healthy recipe blog. I enjoy eating, but I dislike feeling that I’ve cheated myself nutritionally, whether I’m eating on the run, at home or at a restaurant. I have researched and want to share healthier choices I’ve found that taste good, regardless of where you are eating.

I was food editor for
The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant for three years, which kindled my interest in cooking. I now have a frightening number of cookbooks, watch a lot of Food Network and FitTV cooking shows, and tend to tweak nearly every recipe I try. This is particularly true when it comes to baking, as I use soy milk rather than regular milk. When I heard The Oakland Press came up with an opportunity to do a blog, healthy eating and cooking was a logical choice.

I’m not a health guru by any stretch of the imagination. I eat and enjoy real food, including many vegetables, which I attribute partly to the fact that I grew up with a garden in the back yard. (I was primarily the assistant, although I’ve shucked many peas and snapped numerous beans.)

I do not claim to have perfect eating habits, but I have learned what to do (and what not to do) by trial and error. I actually prefer some things that are better for me: dark chocolate in place of regular milk chocolate, shredded wheat rather than frosted wheat bites and brown rice instead of bland, white rice. I refuse to eat rice cakes because they taste like flavored cardboard. And I have a love/hate relationship with salmon, depending on how it’s been prepared. There are a few other things I haven’t tried, and probably won’t, such as seaweed as a vegetable.

Eating anything while we are doing something else is, as I’ve heard at numerous Weight Watcher meetings, a very bad idea. So is eating on the run. I have done both, a trend which will continue. I’m sure some of you do the same thing. People are busy!

We cannot always control where we eat, but we do have choices. Substitution is one of the keys to healthy eating.

On a
Dan Ho show rerun I saw last week on FitTV , Dan was helping a young woman to come up with crunchy, sour, salty snacks to meet her cravings. He introduced her to the idea of substitution. The concept is to think of what you like about a snack (in this case, it was salty and sour tastes as well as crunch of her favorite potato chips) and find a healthy substitute. He chose Granny Smith apples, sliced them, and added salt as well as vinegar. It was the same concept as vinegar-flavored chips, but much better for the waistline.

You can try these substitutions that I’ve come up with on my own or borrowed from friends:

Eating blueberries when I’m craving chocolate often works for me; I learned this accidentally. It sounds weird, but I think it worked due to the fact that both blueberries and chocolate have antioxidants.

Instead of eating instant oatmeal, which has added sugar and salt, in order to warm up on a cold morning, why not try cooking standard oatmeal (I use Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats) in the microwave? Place a heaping ¼ cup oatmeal in a microwaveable dish with just a bit less than ½-cup water. My microwave, which is quite powerful, cooks it nicely at between 55 and 60 seconds, depending on which bowl I’m using. Every microwave is a little different, so start at 50 seconds and cook a few additional seconds as needed. You may cook it with dried raisins or cranberries or stir in the dried fruit later with your choice of cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Add some protein by incorporating either a few chopped, unsalted nuts and/or 1 TBSP natural, unsalted nut butter of your choice.

Regular cheese is high in both fat (mostly saturated) and sodium.
Cabot and Kraft both make reduced-fat cheeses that are better choices than the full-fat cheese. Generally, I go for the one I can get that is lowest in fat and sodium. I really enjoy Cabot's 75% reduced-fat white cheddar, though it is more crumbly and a little drier than most cheeses. I also often substitute Veggie soy cheese shreds or slices (Swiss or provolone slices are my favorites) by Galaxy Nutritional Foods in my own meals. For those watching your salt, the soy cheese is lower in saturated fat but may be higher in sodium than regular cheese! I once bought the vegan version, which wasn’t as terrific as my favorites, but it still tasted OK. If you’ve never tried soy cheese, I’d recommend you start with the provolone.

Substitute ground white meat chicken or turkey for beef in chili or meatballs. If you substitute it in a burger, I would suggest you season it differently than hamburger. Rachel Ray’s
30 Minute Meals has a ton of chicken and burger recipes that you can search within the Food Network site.

While substitution is a good practice, there are times that you want to eat the real thing. Some of these, such as dark chocolate, are even good for you in moderation. Once in a while, I’ll buy a
Lindt dark truffle or two when I am out. I don't keep it in the house or buy it by the bag, so it's a special treat.