Summer is Here

Weather has been seasonal in my part of the country, but unfortunately some horrific weather continues to plague many other parts of the country with tornadoes and dangerous flooding. As always my prayers and thoughts are with the many who have lost everything due to these conditions.

This is really going to sound strange, but I did some research on the subject and I guess there is some truth to it. Each morning when I roll out of bed at 6:00 AM I have to admit that I am not very peppy. I don my exercise clothes and head to the kitchen to make my coffee and while doing so, I cannot help catching a glimpse of my Sponge Daddy bright yellow sponge resting on my sink. At that moment for some unknown reason I begin to feel energized and in a happy mood and anxious to start my day and because I hadn’t had my coffee as yet, I assumed that it must be the happy faced Sponge Daddy. So, like most people do today when they need a quick answer to something, I googled psychological effects from colors. This is what I discovered about the color yellow. Yellow is the brightest color to the human eye. It represents youth, fun, happiness, sunshine and other light playful feelings. Unfortunately for some unknown reason, yellow also can be associated with being scared or being a coward, hence the nickname “Yellow Belly.” Moral of the story-If you haven't heard of a Sponge Daddy-first saw it on Shark Tank- I really like the way it performs. The sponge acts like a regular sponge when rinsed in warm or hot water and when rinsed in cold water with a splash of dish soap it performs like a soap pad, minus the rust.

GOOD MORNING MARIANNE


Little by little I am getting my yard and my gardens in order and to my delight many of the flowers in the perennial garden are popping up every day. Yes, that is the beauty of a perennial garden, seeing what plants have multiplied. But like real life situations there is a positive and negative side to every story. The positive side is that the plants have multiplied and spread and there is less empty space that is usually filled in with annuals for color. The negative side is that the over grown plants smother the more fragile plants, such as my beautiful hybrid day lilies All that has made a showing so far are the run of the mill day lilies that have been in my garden for years. But the peonies have done well this year. Unfortunately the peonies do not last very long, but do have an interesting circle of life. My yard work is still a work in progress and it has been very dry so my vegetable container garden and my herb garden are not doing so well.

Peonies circle of life-early blooms very pale pink


The flower color changes to a deep pink


During the last stages of life the flower changes it's shape and resembles a daisy and the color changes to a deep magenta


By the way, did you know that scientist have made a positive connection with the living things that nature provides and scientific research has shown how crucial to our health, our thinking and our general well being this practice can be. Personally. I have always felt a connection when being outside working in the garden or just sitting on the bench facing my perennial garden. Actually I call my bench my think tank as I have clearly thought out many problems and ideas as well as clearing my writers block occasionally. Call me crazy, but it is true.

Things were a little sketchy with the launching of my site last month, but as I explained it is a bit more technical and like my garden, it is a work in progress. The more frequently I post, the better it will be, I promise! My plan is to post twice a month when I become more familiar with the workings of my new site and yes it does take a good deal of time to do the necessary research, creating and experimenting with recipes, the photo layouts, the computer work and of course the food shopping.and food testing-like last month when I ate asparagus for four days. But, guess what? I love every minute of it because with my research, which by the way is garnered from reading many nutritional and health books and very seldom from the internet, helps to keep my brain active and being in the kitchen cooking relaxes me.

Although I never claimed to be a Nutritionist or a Chef, I am a very creative and healthy-using my guidelines-cook and on August 8th my column will begin its 20th year of publication, 11 years in the newspaper and 8 years on the internet. Recently, after clicking on a recipe posted on Facebook entitled "Healthy Carrot Muffin" and reading all the nasty and derogatory comments because people objected to a few of the ingredients used.and not wanting any comments directed at me, I decided to share once again my guidelines for HealthyCookingForToday.com. We all know that there are hundreds of diets and procedures being marketed as the ultimate cure all for obesity and yes, some people may need special guidance from a professional because they have an underlying condition which hampers the metabolism of food and should seek advice. But for those who have been struggling with yo yo dieting for years and who just want an easy way to eat the right foods that will not only nourish your body but will allow you to obtain a healthy weight, you may be interested in the guidelines I have been using all these years.

I have always been impressed by all the accolades bestowed on the Mediterranean diet by doctors, researchers, and scientists for all the diets healthy proprieties. The food suggestions on this diet include eating plant based food such as fresh, or if not available frozen fruits and vegetables, legumes, olive oil, whole grains, fish and poultry, and other low fat protein, such as nuts and peanut butter and a limited amount of red meat-I do not eat beef, but I do eat pork occasionally. Also the diet suggest the consumption of red wine in moderation.  The other guideline used is the Diabetic Exchange Diet, which is the greatest guideline for anyone. The diet shows the number of food choices to eat at each meal and groups food together because they are nutritional alike and contain the same amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat and calories. There is no guessing here because everything is geared to the number of calories you are allowed. This is great for portion control and a wonderful tool for me when I am working with recipes.


Now there is one more guideline that I use and it is my own. When I am doing a recipe I calculate how many healthy ingredients are in the recipe and if the healthy ingredients outweigh the not so healthy ingredients, I consider the recipe to be healthy, especially if you divided the ingredient by the number of servings. You probably would get a teaspoon of that nasty ingredient.


Also an important factor of a healthy lifestyle is doing at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 5 or more days of the week. I have never been a gym person, but I walked every morning at 6:00 AM with my neighbor, but unfortunately she moved about 8 years ago. I must have mentioned my disappointment to my children , because the kids bought my husband and I a Wii game with Wii Fit and I have been faithfully using it every morning with my 45 to 60 minute workout.


Keeping a journal of the foods that you eat each day is a tremendous help when checking your progress and for meal planning. It is also a good idea to record your water consumption as well, which should be the equivalent to 6 to 8-8 ounce glasses a day. Keep in mind that many foods contain liquid which will also count to reach your quota. I will be giving a heads up on these foods in a future update.

CREATIVE CORNER

In the creative corner today are 3 Connecticut Yankee girls, Nicole,. Alyssa and Kara sharing their fun 4th of July surprises for their families. The CREATIVE CORNER is space reserved for my readers who would like to spotlight their creative endeavors to share with our readers. Many of the submissions appear on Google and Bing search engines. You can submit a photo and information to my email MAY@HealthyCookingForToday.com.

Nicole’s American Flag French Toast - Nicole wanted to surprise her family with a special 4th of July breakfast and to her delight she came up with all the ingredients for this healthy and delicious All American Breakfast.


Alyssa’s American Eagle Patriotic Cookies were the center piece for her mom and dad's 4th of July picnic.


Kara’s American Flag Fruit and Munchie Tray was a big hit at her 4th of July celebration.


Early summer as we know is strawberry season and this year because of the cold Spring we received a few bonus weeks at the pick your own farm. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go picking this year, but my daughter shared her bounty with me and I have enjoyed some delicious recipes these past few weeks.

Because I have been writing this food column for so long and many of my readers have been with me for several years, it was very difficult for me to select recipes that I hadn’t published before. But I managed to work on a few simple newbies for this update and I hope that you get a chance to try one or two. Maybe too late for the pick your own, but Driscoll berries are great and strawberries are a summer produce and because of that you will benefit health wise-for optimum health eat foods in season.

“The survey says”- I borrowed that phrase from the television show, Family Feud - that strawberries are the most popular fruit on the market. Also the most popular grower and distributor is Driscoll Strawberry Association from California. I buy Driscoll strawberries often and I am never disappointed. Of course, as with all fresh produce, you have to be very diligent and check for signs of decay or spoilage as it takes just one bad apple (strawberry) to make the bunch go bad. Also plan to use your purchased strawberries in a day or two.


Strawberries contain Vitamin C, although you do lose some when sliced, potassium and even a fair amount of iron and contain water. So grab a handful on a hot day.


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When my daughter dropped off the basket of strawberries along with my 14 year old grandson that was spending a few days with me while my daughter, her husband and my granddaughter were spending a few days at my granddaughters college orientation, she asked me to make the strawberry crisp that she liked. Unfortunately, my grandson devoured it, an she  didn't even get a single crumb.  Well he is a growing teenager.

5 or 6 cups strawberries, quartered
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup regular oatmeal
6 tbls. Smart Balance Margarine or butter. melted
4 tbls. pecans or walnuts
1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish with buttered flavored cooking spray.
2
Toss strawberries with half of the *brown sugar-I used 3 drops of Madhava Raw Pure Organic Agave Nectar as a sugar substitute.- and place in dish.
3
Combine remaining brown sugar with the oatmeal, flour, Smart Balance and nuts and stir until crumbly. Bake in oven until top is brown and crisp. Cool before serving and top with whipped cream or frozen yogurt or ice cream.

I just love muffins, an I bake them often.  In one of the large pull out trays in my refrigerator freezer you will always find a readily supply an a variety of homemade muffins made with healthy ingredients.  I will admit, I do indulge quite often for breakfast an as a  afternoon snack, but I enjoy sharing with my family and my non-baking friends, many of which our my tasters for my recipes.

A few years ago I called my friend to tell her I was bringing her some muffins, her grandson answered the phone.  I asked him to relay the message to his grandma and he yelled "grandma, it's the Muffin Lady."  I have been called that name ever since.

1/2 cup Smart Balance or butter
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour or white or combination
1 cup Smart Balance Original
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs or 1 egg and 2 eggwhites
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk
1 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour or white or a combination
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh firm strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1
Streusel - Set aside the first five ingredients, In a bowl, cream together the Smart Balance or the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add cinnamon and salt until blended. Add flour and mix with fingers or pastry blender until crumbly.
2
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. I prefer to spray a light coating of spray-purchased spray or canola oil poured into a small spray bottle as always found that when the liner was removed it took some of the muffin with it.
3
In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and smooth, add eggs, vanilla and milk and lightly beat until smooth. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt-I usually use a piece of foil for this step. Add to liquid ingredients and stir just until flour disappears. Gently stir in berries. Spoon into muffin cups and sprinkle tops with streusel. Makes 12

I was entertaining some friends last week and I wanted to prepare a dessert with strawberries. But I didn't want to spend time in the kitchen preparing individual strawberry short cakes.  So earlier in the day, I made a Strawberry Trifle so everyone could serve themselves.  It worked out great and I didn't miss any of the fun.

1 angel cake, homemade or purchased
1 pound strawberries-less or more, if needed
1/4 cup sugar or equivalent amount of sweetener
1/4 cup water-less or more, if needed
2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream, more or less, whipped
1
Bake or purchase an angel food cake. a sponge cake, or use a package of Lady Fingers. Wash and hull strawberries. Slice the berries in half and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar or sweetner-I used a few drops of Agave Nectar. Add 1/4 cup of of water over berries to maserate until a sweet juice appears. Adjust the amountof ingredients according to the size of the serving bowl used. There should be enough ingredients used to make three layers containing cake, berries and cream.
2
In your bowl begin with a layer of cake pieces followed by a layer of strawberries and ending with a layer of cream and place a few whole berries on top. Refrigerate until serving. I usually use my beautiful trifle bowl when I make this for the family, but this was for a small group, so I made it in a lovely square serving dish.. Always make it in a clear glass container.