Spring Is Here


SPRING IS IN THE AIR


Although the calendar indicates that Spring is in the air, Mother Nature was not co-operating these last few weeks, teasing us with 50 degree temperatures one day and  bombarding us with a northeaster the next, and several more days of cold and nasty weather this week. But things are looking good in our area today with 50 plus temperatures. Although the weatherman has just predicted nasty weather for a few days coming our way. WHAT?  Actually, I am not really complaining, as we have been blessed with a mild winter in comparison to other years, as well as being spared from experiencing the horror of scrambling for safety to protect us from multiple devastating storms like other parts of the country. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were in the path of all that destruction.


Well forget what the weather man said, I just hung up my pretty Think Spring guest towels that  I took out of storage and hang up once again  in the bathroom, and I will just hang on to that thought. Please join me with that while you peruse the list of Spring recipes that I will be sharing today.




With the thought of Spring weather  being just around the corner, I realized how quickly time passes.  It was only a few weeks ago that I finally finished storing most of my Christmas decorations and now  I am dragging out all the Spring and Easter decorations.  Actually many of the Christmas and Easter decorations will be offered to family members, donated or discarded, as I am doing some serious downsizing and following the rules of that old adage “List all the items that you want then seriously think of what you really need” and as I sort through the piles, I continually ask myself “Why in the world did I ever buy this.”


Now, listen up, the experts suggest that you take 10 minutes a day to do your purging.  Really, have you ever gone through a box of old letters, cards, kids school papers. Sweet little scribbled notes from you grandkids and special memorabilia from family vacations and other special events?


Well, it seems that after several hours of doing this and with many assorted flavored tea breaks and an empty box of tissues and making certain that I complied with yet another suggestion from the experts-have ready 3 boxes or bags, with the first marked KEEP, the second marked DONATE, and the third marked DISCARD.  Unfortunately, that idea didn’t work very well for me, as I wasted more time taking an item out of box number 3 and putting it in box number 2 and usually it ended up in box number 1. Gosh, I am so glad that I am not an expert, things work out much better for me when I do it my way!


All kidding aside, by doing it my way,  I am finally making headway with my purging and actually it has almost become an obsession with me, which became a necessity when my basement playroom was flooded and severely water damaged last winter. I literally threw out most of the furniture, television, art supplies, etc.  I have accomplished a great deal, which has even surprised me, but I still have a long way to go. But I also find it very refreshing and I have begun  conquering all areas of my home.



DONATE

Everyone seems to revel in the arrival of spring with flowers beginning to pop out of the soil and trees beginning to bud  and a little  bit of spring in our step with lighter clothing and lighter food. Then a light bulb goes off in our heads and we think about that other rite of Spring.  The dreaded Spring cleaning.  Many have dropped that ritual to the curb and others fortunate to have the extra cash are able to hire someone to do the job. I personally enjoy it, but I just refer to it as cleaning as it is a continual task.  But do we really have it so bad?


I believe that the term “Spring Cleaning” dates back to colonial times when keeping a clean house in the cold winters was very difficult.  Just think about it, open huge fireplaces to heat the home and to cook all the foods, without the help of an exhaust system or soot on the walls and floors without the use of a vacuum cleaner or “ Mr Clean Magic Eraser”-gosh I really like that product and no this isn’t a paid advertisement. But really can you imagine your family trudging in and out of the house and walking on dirt paths and roads with horse drawn carriages.  



But that isn’t the only rite of Spring, because when you see those beautiful bunches of asparagus in your super market, it is a sure sign that spring has arrived.  I will be reviewing some tips on preparing, storing and cooking asparagus as well as some interesting benefits you receive when eating it and as always some easy, delicious healthy recipes.  But before I do, I want to share something very important with you.


For several years the month of February-and yes I am a little late with this, but as you know, it was unavoidable- has been designated as National Heart Month and more recently the Go Red for Women a national campaign to raise awareness that the #1 killer of women in our country is heart disease and like the commercial on TV states-Women can do anything today and the thing that we do better is die of a heart attack.  I personally was very interested in this campaign because I have been aware of the fact that complaints by women in regard to chest pain and notable coronary heart disease symptoms have never been addressed as thoroughly as those of men. Women were likely to be told their discomfort was due to hormonal changes, emotional stress or gastric problems and if you were lucky enough to have a stress test and if that test was normal, you lived with the problem.


How do I know this, because I have experienced this problem first hand and it was only after my sister, who is 3 years younger suffered a heart attack and her doctors told her that her coronary problems were likely genetic, that I thought it was important to address my concerns with my primary doctor. The doctor administered an EKG and after reviewing it advised me to see a cardiologist, which by the way I had already previously been seeing one , but  I decided to get a second opinion. To to this day I feel so indebted to Doctor Stephen Marshalko for perhaps saving my life, as I probably would have ignored my symptoms.


As a memorial to the late Doctor Stephen Marshalko, who passed away on September 16. 2016, my brilliant, caring cardiologist who was board certified in Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology and in practice with Advanced Cardiovascular Specialist in Bridgeport Connecticut and yes, I still find it difficult to talk about it, as I considered him not only my doctor, but a friend who enjoyed my column and thought it would be a good outlet  for information regarding women's heart disease. I am so honored and proud to share his contribution to my newspaper column on February 18, 2005.

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“No one is immune from heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women today.  Women, in particular, fail to appreciate their risk of cardiovascular disease.  Almost 14 million Americans have heart disease and women account for nearly half of heart attack deaths.  Cardiac death in women exceeds the total number from the 16 other leading causes of death.  Staggeringly, one in every 2.5 women will die of heart disease or stroke, while one in every 30 will die from breast cancer. Most women incorrectly identify cancer as their greatest risk, when in fact, it is heart disease.


A woman’s symptoms are often different from the classic “chest pain” that men describe.  Women may instead feel pain in their jaw, back, or shoulders, experience palpitations, break out into sweats, or feel lightheaded.  Women are often older than men when they develop heart disease and more likely to have other serious conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, which makes the identification,

treatment and prevention of heart disease crucial.


Medical studies have identified risk factors for the development of heart disease.  Family history plays a major, non modifiable, role in its development, while diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels; smoking, poor nutrition and lack of exercise are modifiable risks that every individual can identify with their doctors.


Lifestyle modification, in addition to appropriate medical treatment, can substantially reduce your risk.  Get fit and eat healthy.  Thirty minutes of exercise a day is essential.  If you cannot spare 30 minutes, at least use the stairs at home and at work or go for a walk after dinner.  Healthy food choices can help to lower high blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and control obesity. Diets that emphasize fruits, vegetables, grains and fish are heart healthy.  In fact a heart healthy diet and regular exercise can delay the onset of heart disease, lessen its severity and lower your chances of death.  Lifestyle changes are vital to help improve your recovery and prevent future complications..


Marianne is a perfect example of someone who did everything right.  With a strong family history of heart disease, and other risk factors, Marianne devoted herself to proper medical attention, regular exercise and a heart healthy diet.  When she recently felt unusual discomfort in her chest along with palpitations and was aware of past symptoms she appropriately consulted her physician.  A treadmill stress test suggested a narrowing within one of her coronary arteries.  A cardiac catheterization confirmed this and Marianne underwent angioplasty and placement of stents. She was out of the hospital in one day, and her recovery was quick and uneventful.  Fortunately for Marianne, her years of healthy nutrition and regular exercise had surely delayed her onset of heart disease, clearly lessened the severity, and thankfully prevented her from becoming one of the victims of the alarming statistics of heart disease and stroke.

Doctor Stephen Marshalko


I do hope that you heed Dr. Marshalko’s advice about the importance of eating a heart healthy diet and exercising and hopefully, I can have a small part in helping you to do so by introducing you to a healthier way of eating and we will begin now with some healthy recipes using asparagus.  Please note that because the recipes are within the text they will not print individually, but of course will print within the text.  Because this update is quite lengthy, and the nutritional benefits from eating asparagus are as well,

I suggest that you refer to last years Spring update by clicking on All Post at the top of the home page in the heading or Articles on the top right hand side.


Perhaps some of you recognize this photo from last Spring, but I want to recap some of the information that I shared from that update concerning the preparation and storing of fresh asparagus and this photo just about says it all.  It is best to purchase the asparagus the day that you will be using it,  but unfortunately many times that isn’t the case. So to retain that beautiful green color-although asparagus does come in other colors-you can store it in the refrigerator in a tall container with a few inches of water covering  a small portion of the stems that have been trimmed slightly to allow the water to be absorb or you can wet a paper towel and wrap the asparagus in it and store it in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use the asparagus, it has to be washed thoroughly. and the best way to do that is to swish the stalks in cold water. The stalks also have to be trimmed, and that's an easy tasks because Mother Nature has automatically done all the calculations as to where to cut for you. Simple hold the spear at both ends and gently bend the spear and it will break exactly where the spear becomes tender.


You will find that many recipes will suggest that you cook the asparagus until just barely tender.  This can be down a few simple ways:  (1)You can simmer the stalks in boiling water for a few seconds. (2) You can steam the stalks in the microwave, with a few tablespoons of water for approximately 30 seconds, test with a fork, remember barely tender, as the asparagus is just being readied for additional cooking. (3) You can blanch the asparagus, especially if you are using a  large amount to work with and also if you plan to use it or a later date as blanching retains color. That is exactly what I did on Saturday, and I made several recipes and I have been eating asparagus for 3 days and I loved every one of them, but unfortunately because of space, I will save a few for next year. Now that is positive thinking and that alone is heart healthy!


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Baked Asparagus with Swiss Cheese and Mustard Sauce




2 pounds asparagus or more if needed

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance

1 cup of milk

For a thinner sauce decrease the butter and flour to 1 tablespoon

¼ cup of Dijon mustard

2 slices Swiss Cheese, finely diced

Buttered flavored cooking spray or 1/4 cup of Smart Balance or butter

1 cup of Nabisco's new !00% Whole Grain Wheat multigrain  Thin Toast Chips


To make sauce, melt butter or Smart Balance over medium-low heat. Stir in flour and heat for 1 minute to form a roux, a paste.  Remove from heat and whisk in ¼ of the milk.  Return to the heat and stir until mixture thickens. Gradually add remaining milk and mustard, stirring gently.  Increase heat slowly to a slow boil and stir until thickened.  Lower heat and whisk in cheese.  Remove from heat and stir until cheese is melted.


Prepare asparagus by trimming, washing and precooking, using one of the methods explained above and place ½ in the bottom of casserole dish that has been sprayed with butter flavored cooking spray. Pour a layer of sauce and a layer of crumbs over asparagus and add a quick spray of butter flavored cooking spray or a small amount of butter or Smart Balance. Repeat second layer, ending with crumbs that have been sprayed with the butter flavored cooking spray or remaining butter or Smart Balance. Bake in a 350 degrees F. oven for 30 minutes. 


This recipe is delicious made with thin slices of leftover baked ham layered on top of the asparagus along with the sauce and crumbs.


Cream of Asparagus Soup




1 pound asparagus

2 cups salt free or low sodium chicken broth

Onion powder

¼ teaspoon dried dill

1 tablespoons Smart Balance

¼ teaspoon dried mustard

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup non-fat milk


Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces; place in saucepan; add broth,onion powder, dill and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat; simmer 12 to 15 minutes, or until asparagus is tender. Process in blender until smooth and set aside.


Melt Smart Balance in saucepan over medium-low heat.  Combine flour and dry mustard, and add to melted Smart Balance, stirring with wire whisk until smooth.  Cook 1 minute stirring constantly ; gradually add milk and cook until mixture is thickened.  Stir in reserved vegetable mixture until hot.


Ladle into bowls or cups and serve immediately after sprinkling with paprika.  This is a very tasty soup and also can be served cold.  I personally enjoy my soups hot.  If you prefer, you can sprinkle a small amount of Swiss or cheddar cheese on top.  Approximately 4 servings


I omitted the cheese because I served my soup with an Open Faced Tuna Melt and a serving of fruit. Diced leftover ham may be added to the soup as well.


This next recipe which is absolutely delicious might seem unusually for my site, but if you have been a follower of my work, you know that I follow a 80-20 approach to healthy eating. I eat 80% by the book and 20% I eat just  a little bit naughty.  I never feel deprived and on  my 20% day, which is Sunday, I might have bacon and eggs for breakfast and I always make a dessert, but my motto is it has to contain fruit or a vegetable such as carrot cake or apple crisp or strawberry shortcake or I might go out to dinner, but of course I usually order, seafood.



Bacon Wrapped Asparagus with Strawberry Mustard Dipping Sauce

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10 stalks of Asparagus

10 strips of bacon

¼ cup Sorrel All Fruit Strawberry

¼ cup mustard, I like Dijon

1 teaspoon of honey

Pinch salt-dash of pepper


Prepare the asparagus by snapping as instructed and if large cut stalks in half and follow previous directions for pre-cooking until barely tender, reserve.


Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place bacon on a rack in a baking, pan that has been wrapped in foil and place in oven just until bacon begins to crisp, but is still pliable. Remove from oven and reserve until cool enough to handle.


Wrap each stalk entirely with a slice of bacon.  In a large skillet or on a griddle, cook asparagus until bacon is crisp and drain on paper towel.


Place jam in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave until soft, remove from microwave and add small amount of the bacon drippings, mustard, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper to the jam and stir until combined.

Serve asparagus with sauce poured over or as a dipping sauce.


Omelet with Asparagus, Bacon and Swiss Cheese




For each individual omelet

2 to 3 eggs

Salt and pepper, to taste


2 stalks asparagus

2 slices bacon

2 small or 1 large slice Swiss cheese

Butter flavored cooking spray or Smart Balance


Prepare 2 slices of bacon for each omelet you are making per instructions above, but cook to desirable crispness and drain on paper towel.  Whisk eggs in a bowl with the salt and pepper until thoroughly blended. Spray your omelet pan or melt a small amount of Smart Balance-oh yes, I have a special omelet pan that I bought several years ago at a gourmet cooking supply store and honestly that is what the wrapper said and I have no idea what it is made of, but it is fantastic, the omelets roll right out on your plate.  I loved it so much, it has traveled with me every time we traveled using our Time S,hare-I thought you would enjoy that, but I have a new ceramic lined pan that works well too, so if you love omelets, you may want to purchase one.  


Set the heat to low and pour in the egg and as the egg begins to cook on the bottom, gently left the edges with a plastic or silicon spatula and tipping the pan so that the uncooked portion of the egg rolls underneath and cooks. Place 2 asparagus stalks on one half of omelet and add 2 pieces of bacon and the Swiss cheese.  Fold other half of omelet on top. Press the omelet lightly on top with the spatula a few seconds to heat the cheese and melt it. Roll out  the omelet on plate.

NOTE-I am sure that you probably noticed that the cutlery appears soiled in some photos, but I assure you that is because it is spiffy clean and shiny and simple is the reflection of the food and the objects.


CREATIVE CORNER Actually I was going to skip this segment, but  after receiving a few comments from readers asking “what has Suzie from Boston been doing lately?”  and if you are a follower of my site, you know that “Suzie from Boston” is a regular contributor to Creative Corner with her impressive offerings, that everyone seems to love and because I probably will not be offering an update before Easter, I am sharing Suzie’s Easter suggestion from a previous update.




Now wouldn't that make a tasty addition to your Easter dinner table?  Move over Suzie, because I am squeezing in the Creative Corner with you to share my traditional Easter Lamb cake that I have made since my children were toddlers, as did my mom from our special lamb cake mold.                   HAPPY EASTER





To submit a photo to the Creative Corner send your name and any information needed, as well as contact information if the iterm is for sale to MAY@HealthyCookingForToday.com.


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.