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.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Healthier eating out for holiday celebrations

It's a holiday, so you want to join in having some celebratory food and your favorite holiday drink. With the wide variety of foods around, sometimes it's hard to make sure you are still overall meeting the goals of eating healthy. I have this problem as much as the next person, but I've learned a few things over the years.

Try to keep it to one small cookie!
There's no need to be crazy about it: for example, don't munch only on plain celery sticks while looking longingly at the pie your cousin is eating. For one thing, it'll make him nervous the way you're eyeing his food. In addition, that level of self-sacrifice might lead to overeating later.

Take it easy
"All things in moderation." While I've gnashed my teeth on some occasions I have heard this, it still is true. I'm not trying to be a killjoy; all these suggestions are meant to enhance your enjoyment of the holidays while minimizing the pain involved getting on the scale after them.

The best thing to do, with both snacks and dinner, is to take a plate up to where the food is, select what you will eat and move on out.

You and I both know what makes a healthy dinner, really. I don't think we need to go there. Do you?

Personally, I find the nibbles before and after and the dessert course much harder to deal with than what's for dinner.

Standing in the kitchen next to the snacks or eating standing up by the food buffet both tend to lead to mindless nibbling. Take some things you really like that scream "holiday food" to you, but don't get carried away. And go sit down rather than staying by the food. Meanwhile, keeping your mouth busy with talking with friends and family between bites also helps to keep down the food intake. If you follow these steps, you'll still have room for a reasonable dinner and a light dessert.

But a buffet of snacks is hard for almost everybody, including me. People tend to nibble here and there; and, before you know it, you've consumed hundreds of calories!

Better choices can be tasty, too
There usually are some healthier choices from the snack buffet (pick two or three if dinner follows). If the snack buffet is your dinner, have between five and seven choices.

Just try these:
  • a handful (no more) of your favorite nuts 
  • plain tea, black coffee, or water for your drinks, rather than punch, cider or eggnog, is a very good idea
  • two small pieces of dark chocolate or fruit covered with dark chocolate
  • a roll-up consisting of a slice of lunch meat and a slice of cheese
  • two to three pieces of sushi (if quite large, limit to two pieces)
  • grape or cherry tomatoes (my personal favorite; I will, left to my own devices, eat them all, even without dip)
  • pickle chips and/or olives (keep it to 10 or less if you need to watch sodium)
  • fruit salad or other fresh fruit (grapes, strawberries, pineapple tidbits, or apple slices and fruit dip made with low-fat yogurt are all good choices)
  • veggies and either low-fat spinach-artichoke dip or ranch dressing 
  • approximately three cubes of your favorite cheese (the equivalent of about one string cheese stick, depending on size). 
  • Three cubes or three small pieces/slices of ham, sausage, salami, prosciutto or smoked salmon (I am like a starving mouse when it comes to cubes of cheese and love prosciutto; believe me: you do not want the "hungover" feeling from overdoing either of these items)
Other ideas to avoid overeating

If you want a cup of eggnog, try diluting it with skim milk and keep to a small cup (1/2 c. is one serving for any type of eggnog). Try either low-fat eggnog or one of the non-dairy versions available in the natural foods sections of many stores, including Kroger and Meijer. Any of these choices are lower in calories than traditional eggnog.

Why not make your favorite healthy treat to share? Then something you like and can eat without derailing your balanced diet will be available. You might even make a healthy main dish, if dinner is something very heavy like 10-layer lasagna and bread sticks. (This does require coordination with your host/hostess, but usually that's not a problem. That's especially true if you follow a healthy diet for medical reasons and explain that.)

Fill up on unadulterated veggies (steamed beans versus green bean casserole, for example, or salad or the raw veggie tray with a little bit of light ranch) and take small amounts of high-calorie items. (At the risk of sounding obvious, any dish smothered in/mixed with cheese, sour cream, butter, fried onions or mushroom soup, it is pretty high in calories.)

Protein, such as turkey ham or lunch meat rolled up with a slice of cheese is a better bet than potato-cheese casserole.

A serving of sweet potatoes is usually a better option than whipped, mashed potatoes with cream and butter. If your sweet potatoes come with marshmallows baked on it, why not make it your dessert?

One reason I adore having bite-sized desserts at a party is that I can try two or three things without totally destroying my game plan. The point is to limit yourself to the equivalent of one fairly small dessert portion. So try fresh fruit instead of pie, cake or cookies when possible. If pie is your must-have holiday food, keep it to one thin slice or two very thin slices (1/4-1/2 inch thick). Ditto for cookies: have one normal-sized cookie or two small cookies.

Above all, don't forget to enjoy yourself when you're out for the holidays.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Crunch Granola donates half its profits to fight hunger

Outta my mind on Thursday evening ... OK, I'll stop scamming from Bob Talbert, a heck of a columnist who would have been awesome at blogging had he lived in the digital age. 

I'm feeling nostalgic about a lot of things as I plan to go to Central Michigan University during Homecoming weekend. It may not be the best idea ever, going there Homecoming weekend for my first trip back in years, but the timing worked out. I already will be halfway there for a going-away party for Julie, a good friend and former coworker at The Catholic Weekly.

Even as I look back, I know that moving forward is the way to go.

I'm inching my way to a gluten-free, and, possibly down the road, a mostly Paleo/Primal lifestyle. Not because I've ever been diagnosed with Celiac disease, but because I feel it is a simple way to cut out the worst things I tend to eat fairly easily. I did the gluten-free thing for several months last year and earlier this year. Once you have some convenience products to rely on, it can be easy. But remember, even if it is gluten-free, that doesn't mean it's good for you. I speak from experience!

One of the things I miss when I am eating gluten-free is granola ... and, even though I was born at the height of the "flower child" movement, I am unlikely to make my own. It's not cheap, but I think I may try Crunch Granola, for these reasons: 
  • It's gluten-free.
  • The business is based in Wolverine Lake, not too far from my home.
  • 50 percent of the profits are donated to Forgotten Harvest food bank or, if sold in Lansing, the Greater Lansing Area Food Bank.
  • As of today, the number of donated meals financed through Crunch Granola sales is 39,234: not bad for a year's work! 
For more information about how this business got started, see this article by MSU Extension 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A banner day for gluten-free eaters?

You may have heard the word on the street. 

The FDA has defined a gluten-free standard, which leads to hope that gluten-free eaters will be able to confidently choose a food that is labeled gluten-free and know it meets a certain threshold for gluten: less than 20 parts per million (ppm). 

An excerpt from the FDA's findings states: 

"In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA will allow manufacturers to label a food "gluten-free" if the food does not contain any of the following:
  1. an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
  2. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  3. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten
Foods such as bottled spring water, fruits and vegetables, and eggs can also be labeled "gluten-free" if they inherently don't have any gluten.
The regulation will be published Aug. 5, 2013 in the Federal Register, and manufacturers have one year from the publication date to bring their labels into compliance."

That doesn't solve all the problems, of course. There are people who cannot tolerate 1 ppm of gluten. But it's a start. 

In the meantime, look for these seals certifying pretty rigid standards for a food to be defined as gluten-free. Or stick to naturally gluten-free foods, including fruits, vegetables and meat. If using gluten-free grains, make sure they are certified gluten-free. Bob's Red Mill has certified gluten-free oats, for example, as well as gluten-free flours. 

Just be careful. Each of you is a unique treasure; take care of yourselves! 

For more information, check out these articles: 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Great stuff on TV: 'Tripping Out With Alie & Georgia'

There's a new television show on Cooking Channel: Tripping out with Alie & Georgia

I found it hysterically funny as well as informative after watching the first-ever episode.

Stars Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark had a goal: to "do Vegas" and still keep their dignity.  And they wear really cool outfits in the process.

They did Las Vegas in a way that they wouldn't regret, both in terms of food eaten, drinks drunk or money spent at the casino.

Though they did do one thing I wouldn't.

No matter what, I'm not taking a high-wire lesson at Absinthe. But I will watch the circus there. And maybe have a small glass of absinthe while I'm there. I hear it's not usually made with wormwood anymore.

Best line: "You're not afraid of heights are you?" "I don't think I've ever been high enough to know." (Alie)

They gave some great tips:

  • Stay in one of the cool boutique hotels off the strip.
  •  Hang poolside and relax before heading out to the strip.
  • There's a monster buffet at Caesars Palace with the equivalent of nine restaurants and has amazing food: the Bacchanal Buffet. 
  • Go to downtown Vegas: It's really cool.
  •  Try new things, like getting a lesson in poker before trying your luck at the casino or learning how to walk on the high wire.
  •  Don't forget to try food in the fanciest-looking diner I've ever seen, The Peppermill, that has a server who looks like Giada de Laurentiis. It also serves humungous pancakes. 
Incidentally, the second best line, from Georgia, regarding the aforementioned pancakes: "I want to cuddle up underneath this."

After their trip, the ladies brought their culinary experiences back home and reinvent the food and cocktails for a party at home. 

Recipes they made for the party included:
But don't take my word that this is a fabulous new show, see it for yourself. You can stream the premiere episode of  Tripping out with Alie & Georgia free right here.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reviews: MaryJanesFarm, 'They Draw and Cook' website and 'Muffin Tin Chef" cookbook

It's not just about food, but I couldn't put down MaryJanesFarm. Except, of course, to share it with you!

The magazine says "eat better feel better • look better" on the cover. And Mary Jane isn't kidding!

The June/July 2013 issue included features or short bits on muffin-tin meals (a recent fascination of mine that I'll address later), how to make homemade feta cheese (which seems very complicated, but to each his/her own), a cookbook made and illustrated by artists, which I found fascinating (again, more on this later), organic food, and what to watch out for with probiotics (some have GMOs via corn maltodextrin, by the way, but mine doesn't).

This issue also touched on growing food, including aquaponics (raising food and fish or freshwater shrimp together, negating the need for either soil or fertilizer, which sounds amazingly efficient, though I'm afraid the fish/freshwater shrimp would freeze to death here by October). It also shows how to build your own greenhouse. 

I am plotting already to place a copy of the greenhouse plans in Dad's chair to help keep him occupied in the winter when he's not in Florida. I hope that I wouldn't kill too many plants while he was gone. 

The cookbooks I mentioned are produced by the sister-and-brother-team of Nate Padavick and Salli Swindel. Their website, They Draw and Cook, has the same name as the cookbook, which features 107 illustrated recipes. 

The They Draw and Cook website shows examples of the illustrated recipes and is searchable by ingredient as well as category. 

Try the "Dial a Dinner" feature: it gives you randomly-selected recipes for an appetizer, main course and dessert! 

Regarding the meals-in-a-muffin thing, well, Mom and I bought a cookbook while we were at Barnes and Noble buying Windows 8 for Dummies

The reason? We bought Dad a computer that we're trying to teach him how to use. But first, we have to learn Windows 8 ourselves. And I couldn't possibly express my true feelings about Windows 8 in a public forum. The air would turn blue! Let's just say I really don't like Windows 8!

Back to the muffin tin cookbook, titled Muffin Tin Chef: 101 Savory Snacks, Adorable Appetizers, Enticing Entrees and Delicious Desserts by Matt Kadey. So far, I've liked both recipes Mom and I made (Ratatouille Muffins and Meatloves with Chimichurri Sauce, despite taking a few liberties with the ingredients  in each my apologies to Matt — and omitting the chimichurri sauce because we were short on time. The meatloaves still were delicious! 

We didn't take photos of either recipe, but I will try to remember to do that next time! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Try bodacious burgers during National Burger Month

The Oakland Press printed an article about National Burger Month.

Any one burger sounds lovely, but expensive; check out the list.

But even if you can't afford a $15-$20 pound burger, all is not lost.

You can meet or exceed these burgers at home, with some expert help.

Permit me to point you in the direction of two of my favorite Food Network stars: Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay.

Both have serious burger "street cred." Bobby has hosted a grilling show on Food Network for a number of years. Featured on the Food Network site is a slideshow of Bobby's best burgers with links to the recipes ... and each one is a bit different.

Rachael's cookbooks and her magazine "Every Day with Rachael Ray" are full of great burger options, including healthier choices such as white chicken or turkey meat burgers.

One of the things she does well is to change up the size of her burgers; I love her appetizer-like takes on burgers. Check out this video for an example:
Mini Chipotle Burgers

Yes, I call Rachael and Bobby by their first names. That's because they've spent a lot of time in my living room and inspire me. I know good food, well-cooked, better than most restaurant food is obtainable in part due to watching their shows.

And Bobby, I don't squish my burgers down anymore to keep them from being too high in the center. I use your little trick of putting an indentation in the burger's center so when it puffs up, it's at the same level as the rest of the burger. Thanks for the tip!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kudos to Whole Foods

 I was working out of town and staying at a friend's house. I did not have the constant Internet access I'm used to, and, unfortunately, the blog got short shrift. But I'm back!

And now for some news!

According to Enrivonmental Working Group (EWG), Whole Foods Market is the first national grocery chain that will require all genetically-engineered foods on its shelves to be labeled by 2018! Yes, even if only one ingredient in it is genetically engineered, it has to be listed. It's a great decision and I'm happy Whole Foods Market is taking action. I just wonder why the goal is five years from now. What do you think?