New Year, New You

Hopefully you were as busy as I was preparing for Christmas and you wouldn’t of had the time to log on to HealthyCookingForToday. There doesn’t seem to be adequate time to put into motion all the ideas that you have devised for decorating and food preparations for the holidays. I swear I seemed to be working from morning until night several days prior to Christmas shopping, wrapping, decorating, writing out Christmas cards- although I have been told that the tradition is becoming obsolete. My baking was completed a few days before Christmas and after Christmas Eve mass and a wonderful Christmas Eve party at my son and daughter-in-law's home I prepared a few dishes for my daughter and my son-in-law’s huge Christmas Day celebration.


Lately I have been wondering how I ever was able to put together the many holiday celebrations for the family when I was working 9-5. But when I go through the photo albums and view all the videos the memories of the many all nighters preparing for these family events have faded and the memories of the wonderful holidays that we had together as a family are etched in my mind and I do hope that you have carved out some beautiful memories from your family events as well.


Although my indoor decorations have been taken down and stored away for next year. I am embarrassed to say that my outdoor decorations are still gracing my house and yard because January has also been a very busy month with New Year's Day dinner at my oldest daughters, house guest, dinner parties, scheduled appointments and hitting all those after Christmas sales using all the generous gift cards from my family. But the main events were the family birthday celebrations which included my birthday, my daughters, my daughter-in-laws and my grandsons. My birthday celebration was celebrated with a wonderful family party at my youngest daughter’s home.. My friend says “I never saw a family that has so many celebrations.”


In my personal family I have 30 members and counting, with a newbie due in July. God willing, we would have been having a huge celebration for my late husband’s birthday today. As you can imagine, I never am at a loss when it comes to places to go and things to do. Although creating this site HealthyCookingForToday is one of my simple pleasures and doing this for 20 years you would think that it would be old hat to me. But believe me it isn’t with the new website design and because information from the health community is always changing, and because I always want to be on top of the game when I report it and as a former Editorial Assistant, Photo Journalist, Columnist, Police Reporter and as with many local newspapers, employees wear many hats. NO FAKE NEWS HERE!


I only mention this, because I posted that the new update would be in January, but as you can see life sometimes gets in the way.  Also,  I was hesitant to mention the following because this website isn't about me, but about sharing health information, healthier recipes and thoughts that may help you live a healthier life. But unfortunately, I had to curtail my computer work for a few day, and actually I began posting on January 31. The reason, I have been having some discomfort with my eye after a long awaited procedure that I had done in November.  Actually. I had to wait four years because my eye was compromised by a severe case of shingles that had manifested in my left eye with a seven day hospital stay with an IV in each arm.  Not a comfortable experience and that is why I want to suggest to you how important it is to ask your doctor about the Shingles shot that is available to you today.  BEST TO BE SAFE!


Every year I tell myself I am going to downsize when it comes to all my treasured Christmas decorations, but a wave of that wonderful Christmas Spirit will come over me and with the help of my boys. we drag out all the boxes of them.  I especially get all warm and sentimental when we set up our special reindeer display, but I do admit that it does get smaller each year. The reindeer were made by my husband many years ago from a tree that  was cut down in our yard. I keep telling my self that it is to cold to dismantle them. 


As I have always acknowledged, I am not a medical person and I am not a chef, I am a home cook and my primary interest is “How does the consumption of various foods affect your health?” Evidently that is exactly the same questions that researchers and scientist are asking and trying to solve because in the last few years there has been hundreds of articles pertaining to the health benefits of certain foods. The bottom line, be aware of the foods that may be beneficial for your personal health problems and eat clean by avoiding foods with preservatives, an abundance of artificial ingredients and color enhancers and yes even GMO’S until there is a timeline establishing their safety.


My newspaper column and my website have always been about healthy eating, good nutrition with an occasional in moderation recipe thrown in, but mainly I concentrate on eating what has been documented as the healthiest diet in the world. Yes, the Mediterranean Diet has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality, a reduced risk of cancer and cancer mortality and new studies indicate that the diet also contributes to reduced incidence of Parkinson and Alzheimer’s diseases. Actually the Mediterranean Diet isn’t like the many diets that are pitched on television and the internet that promise miracles with their powders and pills. The Mediterranean Diet isn’t a diet at all, but is a way of life, which includes exercise, socializing and dining with friends and family and breaking bread and enjoying a glass of red wine with your meal and can be adjusted and tailored to fit every ones special needs, Now that doesn’t sound like it would be to hard to take, does it? To make it easier for yourself you can even work the diet 80/20, following the diet 80 percent of the time and eating what you desire 20 percent of the time, in moderation of course and that is the reason you will find healthier desserts occasionally.


I am going to share the Mediterranean Diet guidelines that I featured several months ago because it is always good to review them and also because I notice new names on my members list.


Now this isn't to hard to take is it? This photo does not include your servings of meat, poultry, seafood and desserts.


Components and guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet (Way Of Life)

FOOD GROUPS

Meat and Sweets

Eat in moderation

EGGS, CHEESE AND YOGURT 

Eat as often as you like using moderate portions

FISH AND SEAFOOD

Often, at least twice a week

POULTRY

Eat as often as you like in moderate portions

BASE EACH MEAL ON THE FOLLOWING:

Fruits,Vegetables, Bread and Grains (make most of them whole Wheat with an occasional serving of Artisan thick crusted bread), Nuts*, Legumes, Seeds, Herbs and Spices in place of salt and eating an abundance of plant based foods. Limiting red meat to a few times a month and selecting cuts with minimum fat or trimming excess fat and try to eat fish and poultry twice twice a week

Drinking Red Wine in moderation and preferable with dinner-can’t drink alcohol? Mix Deep Purple Grape Juice with Seltzer Water or Mineral Water. Better yet purchase a Soda Stream and make your own carbonated water using your tap water. 


The Mediterranean Diet (Lifestyle) recognizes the importance of eating meals with and socializing with friends and family. Exercising and staying active and priming your brain learning new skills often, reading and doing crossword puzzles and word games and yes, learning to use a computer or any other electronic equipment and even watching a game show like Jeopardy or Wheel Of Fortune.


*Nuts-Although nuts are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet, nuts are high in fat, but most of the fat is unsaturated, but still high in calories. Nuts should not be eaten in high quantities. A palm size portion should suffice.


Another very important component of this diet or any other diet is that you must concentrate on the correct portion size for each item and the number of calories you need to reach your Daily Caloric Goal. A very easy and accurate way to discover this is to Google American Cancer Society Calorie Counter and all the work is calculated for you.


I also would suggest that if you are really serious about eating healthier that you Google Exchange List and use this as a guide for portion control as it is a no brainer way to plan meals as you may substitute or exchange, any food within a list for any other food in the same list. Example: In the Fruit List you can choose a ½ of grapefruit, or an orange or a banana or any other fruit on the list as they all equal the same amount of calories, protein, and fat.


I must not forget to remind you of the importance of water and I am from the old school and I still believe in the eight-eight ounces of water a day with the first glass in the morning with a squeeze of lemon juice and I prefer it cold, not only does it wake you up, but it actually burns calories to drink it.

Creative Corner

In the creative corner today is Justin from Boston and boy does he have a 20 percent treat for you, strictly in moderation of course. A peanut butter lover Justin calls it a Peanut Butter Mascarpone Mousse Pie with an Oreo Cookie Crust with chocolate ganache and a little bit of whipped cream and hold onto your hat rimmed with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.


Well, I could say peanut butter is healthy, it takes the place of meat in the Exchange List and chocolate is good for your heart and Mascarpone Cheese although high in saturated fat, is very low in sodium. The amount of whipped cream you would get is minimum and you could skip the peanut butter cup-actually as this is my 20% treat it would be the first thing I would eat and I would have a small portion of the pie and dream about it the rest of the week, Great job Justin and thank you for sharing.


Justin’s new bride Suzie was very proud and said that her husband made it a few times, once for a Thanksgiving pie contest for her family and to share with his family for the holidays and each time it gets better and better.


I am going to include my recipes for today with my text because they are not formatted for use in the recipe section and I feel that they are important to have to use as an alternative for use in a low sodium diet. I will always use one of these seasoning, especially if there is natural sodium in the ingredients and if any additional salt was added.

Grind all to a fine consistency and place in jars with tight fitting lids and preferably a shaker top and store in a dark cool place.

Saltless salt

3 tablespoons each of dried parsley, marjoram, basil and thyme

4 ½ teaspoons each of rosemary, paprika and onion powder

Italian Blend

1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed

1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed

1 ½ teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon pepper

What a Kick Blend

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1-½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon ground red pepper


Remember the saying “Only a dab will do ya” Come to think about it maybe not, because I am going way, way back with that one. Just remember herbs are suppose to enhance foods, not overpower them.

The following blends are salt free rubs actually, but I often use them for seasonings.

Garlic Herb Rub

10 teaspoons garlic powder

4 teaspoons sage

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons basil

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cajun Rub

8 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons paprika

8 teaspoons dry lemon zest

8 teaspoons coarsely chopped black pepper

4 teaspoons tarragon

4 teaspoons basil

2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Hot and Spicy Rub

4 tablespoons black pepper

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons ground red pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

  • 1 teaspoon dry cinnamon

  • Prepare as in the previous recipes. When using as a rub, prepare the meat or poultry first by rubbing with a small amount of olive oil or spray with olive oil flavored spray. Rub meat or poultry with rub on each side and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before grilling roasting or broiling.

  • Herbs and spices are expensive and if you do not have many spices on hand it may be a little pricey initially, but in the long run it will save on salt free gourmet blends and rubs.

  • This project could keep you busy for a bit, but hopefully you will join as a member of HealthyCookingForToday.com simple by following directions at the bottom of this page. Remember it is free and only means that you will receive an email blast when the site is updated and your information is never shared by me.


  • I Knew that I would be working on this for awhile, and because I was having guest for brunch in the morning, I prepared an OverNight Baked Blueberry French Toast Casserole from the new  Pepperidge Farms new Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread and served it with fresh strawberries and Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, which by the way, is quite pricey troday, and a side of chicken breakfast sausage.  Everyone  loved it and I am certain that you will too!  



OVERNIGHT FRENCH TOAST

1 loaf of Pepperidge Farms Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread

3/4 to 1 cup of fresh blueberries or to taste

5 eggs or 1 small container of EggBeaters and 1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon  cinnamon sugar mixture, optional


Lightly butter a 9x13 baking dish

Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and add to baking dish with nuts. In a medium bowl add the eggs, milk and vanilla and beat with a whisk or fork until blended. Pour over bread and blueberries in baking dish and with a wooden spoon, press liquid down to cover bread cubes. Cover dish with foil or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator over night.

Bake in a 350 Degrees F. oven for 50 minutes, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture, if desired-Of course you can omit the blueberries and add a variety of add-ins. My favorite is apples and walnuts and served as a dessert with a topping of a small amount of caramel sauce and a dab of whipped cream.


DISCLAIMER - HealthyCookingForToday.com is intended to supply my readers with timely medical information and suggestions for healthier food choices and recipes and is not intended to give personal medical advise, which should be obtained from your personal physician.