Think Spring

Hello-well my holiday break turned into a lengthy absence from publishing my website HealthyCookingForToday.com, and I apologize for that. Unfortunately it was because of unavoidable happenings. The most devastating coping with the passing of two very close friends, one a  few days after Thanksgiving and the other friend a few days after the new year. As you can imagine, this pulled at my heart strings for a long time and still does. I keep reminding myself how precious life is and how thankful we should be for each day that is granted to us. Also that this God giving time be used wisely and productively. Unfortunately, when you read the daily newspaper and listen to the evening news, it is obvious that my message would not resonate with many.


Having another birthday in January, which by the way makes me feel like I am on the merry-go-round of life and it is going faster and faster, I realize that there isn’t anything that I can do globally to help. But like most I try to implement some of the simple things to make the world a better place to live out those precious days,


I begin by being kind, giving and helpful to others, both monetary, when able to local fundraisers and charities and my donations to the American Cancer Society and my monthly donation as a Partner In Hope for St. Jude's Children’s Hospital.  My recycling container is filled to the brim each week and I try to use earth friendly cleaning and garden products-most homemade, which I will be sharing in a later update.  But one of my most satisfying contributions is this Healthy Cooking For Today web-site. Actually I wasn’t really aware of this until my old system crashed a few months ago and I was very upset because of all the work being done on the new web-site design, I was ready to throw in the towel. That is until I read some of my e-mails from readers of my web-site and letters that were in my files from my old newspaper columns that I found while cleaning my file. I accepted the fact that if I could help one person become healthier by eating the right foods that are more beneficial for them to help them obtain optimal good health then I am doing a yeoman job-couldn't help that!


Other unavoidable problems that occurred were a drain in my dishwasher rupturing and flooding the finished basement while I was at my son-in-law and daughter’s home on Valentine's Day. I used the room as an exercise room and workshop for various projects. Everything was ruined including the wall to wall rug, my paintings and supplies, most of the furniture and boxes and boxes of water soaked objects.


To add fuel to the fire we had to remove whatever was in the room because workers were coming to remove the rug and were putting the furniture in the garage,  I hastily backed my car out of the garage and to miss some filled plastic bags I had just placed there, I turned the wheels slightly and smashed into the door frame and dented the side of my car.  Not one, but two claims on my insurance. Nothing has been resolved as yet, and although I was devastated, that evening when I saw on the news and viewed the scenes of the flooding that people were dealing with in other parts of the country, I felt thankful.  My dad always shared this thought “I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw the man who had no feet.”


Well like everyone I am eagerly awaiting Spring, but right at this moment I am freezing as I work in my office which is over my unheated garage.  Yes, it seems that humans as well as plants are confused by this untimely weather. My Easter tulip plant which I placed in the south facing window of my guest room was sitting straight and perky in it’s pot yesterday, but this morning when the sun came out it was leaning south soaking up the rays. We can learn so much from nature and that is why we all have to do our part to protect the environment.


Earth - The Hunger Site


Yes. like the seasonal guest towels-a gift from my daughter-in law-that are hanging on the towel bar of my new shower enclosure, a Christmas gift from my son and three of my grandsons, I am thinking Spring every day, but the weatherman just squashes my thoughts.



At least my trip to my Big Y Supermarket cheered me up a bit when viewing all the bright Spring flowers and the mouth watering displays of my favorite Spring vegetable asparagus. Actually I didn’t acquire a taste for asparagus until I started experimenting with various ways of preparing it and there are many.  So today. I am going to share some of my favorites.  Honestly, I am confident that you will discover how delicious this wonderful Spring vegetable is.  Actually, although I still refer to asparagus as a Spring vegetable and the first sign of Spring in your supermarket, in reality in today’s world asparagus is imported from other countries and is available all year long.  This fact really concerns me because if you adhere to the rules of nature and to maximize the benefits of a good diet, the rules were to eat with the season.  Example-if asparagus is growing in Peru or in any country in the southern hemisphere where the seasons differ from the United States all the vitamins and nutriments that it contains would not benefit our bodies as much if we are eating it in January.  Just Saying!


Not only is asparagus delicious, that is if you try any of the delicious recipes that are available today including a few of 

my favorites that I am sharing, instead of the same old, same old, but it is a nutritional jackpot for us.  Did you know that 5 spears of asparagus has only 25 calories with out additional toppings. Asparagus contains 4 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams each of dietary fiber and protein. Also asparagus contains 10% of the DV for vitamin A, 15% of vitamin C and 2 grams of calcium and iron. a added bonus it also has a fairly decent amount of potassium.


A very important aspect of the nutritional value of asparagus is the fact that a serving of asparagus has approximately one third of the daily amount of folic acid, a B vitamin that is known to minimize birth defects. Woman who are contemplating pregnancy should certainly be aware of this. Asparagus also contains the power antioxidant glutathione,

which is also helpful for their male partner in obtaining a healthy system. Glutathion is also known to be a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer and may delay the progression of cataracts. 

I purchased 2 hardy bunches of asparagus and because i Would be creating asparagus recipes for the next few days I prepared it for storage in the refrigerator by putting it  in a tall glass container I call my asparagus vase with enough water to cover the stems. Now when you are ready to use the asparagus it has to be  washed thoroughly, by swishing the stalks in cold water.  The stalks also have to be trimmed and the question  always asked frequently is "How do I know where to cut the stem." not to worry because Mother Nature has come to your rescue again.  Hold the spear at both ends and gently bend the spear and it will break exactly where the stem begins to get tender-Thank You Mother.  In the photo notice the prepared stalk.


IT'S HERE, SPRING THAT IS-I had evidence of that this morning, when I looked out my bedroom window and viewed my neighbors garden bursting in color from the many tulip bulbs that she planted.  This is a morning ritual for me viewing the ever changing garden during the spring and summer seasons. For me seeing the wonder of nature each morning makes me happy and makes my day. I love flowers and I have two gardens, a perennial garden and a herb and vegetable container garden and some annuals planted in  areas around my house.  We often refer to people who have beautiful gardens as having a green thumb, however my  neighbor must have two green thumbs because everything she plants turns out beautiful. I certainly will keep you posted on the progression of our gardens.





For members and faithful readers of my site you will remember I have what I named "THE CREATIVE CORNER."  This is where I spotlight readers who send me photos of their creative endeavors-cooking,  crafts, decorating ideas, art work or what ever you deem exciting.  I only use your first name and state that you are from. Of course if you  would like referrals  include that information with your photo.  Contact-  MAY@healthycookingfortoday.com   

    

CREATIVE CORNER

In the creative spotlight today is JoAnn from New Hampshire.-JoAnn creates  memorial teddy bears made from a 

loved ones favorite garment,  The teddies are so soft and lovable and are sure to conjure up many happy memories. I personally can attest to that, because I have one.





OOPS!  I think I spoke to soon because yesterday and today have been very cold, especially today is a very cold, gray rainy day. I guess I will have to just have to  THINK  SPRING..


Before I share my asparagus recipes-which you may not approve of because the ingredients are not quite the fair that I usually use in my recipes, but the recipes that I offered have been my favorites for years and I do eat them in moderation.


 I am also happy to announce that this update is the launch of my newly designed website. I am so pleased with all the wonderful technology that applies to it and ask that you be patient with me as my brain isn't  wired like the younger generation and it might take me a little longer to understand it.  


You will notice that in the top right hand corner there are 2 categories listed: Articles, Recipes.  By clicking Article you will find all the articles that will be on the new website- you can still go to Word Press.com/HealthyCookingForToday to retrieve my past columns and recipes.  By clicking Recipes it brings you to all the recipes that will be published on this website, that you can copy by clicking the printer icon ,  About which in future post will be on the bottom of tne home page and shares information about the author-me. The Contact  of course is  self explanatory-my email and when activated will be on the top right of the home page.  Feel free to contact me to let me know how you like my new design or if you have  any suggestion. The About and Contact are not set up as yet, but the website's new email is MAY@healthycookingfortoday.com


A strata starts with of 4 basic ingredients for its foundation-eggs, milk, cheese and seasonings.and by adding various fillers you can create a variety of delicious recipes.

1 pound bacon
1 loaf bread
4 eggs
1 cup Eggbeaters*
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon onion powder-optional
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard-optional
1 pound asparagus
butter flavored cooking spray
1 1/2 cups cheese
1
Preheat oven to 450 Degrees F. Line a small cookie sheet with sides with foil. Place a cooling rack on the foil and lay the bacon strips on it-this is optional of course, but it facilitates the clean-up as the fat will drain onto the foil when cooking and when it solidifies simple wrap it in the foil and discard. This is a great hint for cooking a large amount of bacon. Also you can control the degree of cooking, by checking the oven often. When cool, dice the bacon.
2
Spray a 9 x 13 oven proof dish or a pan with butter flavored cooking spray. Remove crust from the *Martin's Potato Bread -if I must use white bread I will always use the potato bread for the benefit of the Potassium from the potatoes which helps build strong bones and helps to maintain a regular heartbeat, which certainly outweighs the carbohydrates it contains. Break the bread into small pieces and layer in the dish.
3
Add a layer of the cheese, reserving some for an additional layer and for sprinkling on top and add a layer of the asparagus that has been cut into 1 inch slices and a layer of bacon, reserving a small amount of bacon to sprinkle on top. add another layer of bread.
4
In a medium bowl, add the eggs and whisk lightly, add the *Eggbeaters-I use the Eggbeaters in place of the 4 eggs for 2 reasons, to save on the fat and cholesterol the yolks contain. Also to save on my Eggland Best to use alone in my weekly allotment. Add milk and seasonings and blend and pour over the ingredients in the dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
5
When ready to serve preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle of the dish comes out clean. Remove from oven and add the reserved bacon and cheese. return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. My oven seems to retain heat and if the knife test indicates that the strata is thoroughly cooked, I turn the oven off and return the dish until the cheese melts.

This recipe  like the previous recipe can be changed in many ways to create many delicious recipes,  To make a complete meal using this recipe you would add a protein source such as ham , shrimp or hard boiled eggs to the cheese sauce.  Perhaps you could serve applesauce as your fruit and the small amount of crumbs would be your starch. 

1 pound asparagus-cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbls. Smart Balance or butter
1 1/2 cups basic white sauce with cheese
3 tbls Smart Balance or butter
3 tbls flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup coarsely grated cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1
To make the sauce melt 3 tablespoons of butter or Smart Balance add 3 tablespoons of flour and cook for a a few seconds or until combined. Slowly add the cup of milk and on low heat, stir until slightly thickened, add salt and pepper. Stir in cheese, stir until cheese is melted. If sauce is to thick a small amount of milk can be added, stir to combine.
2
Place cut asparagus in a buttered or use Smart Balance oven proof dish. Pour sauce over contents and sprinkle with crumbs and dot with butter or Smart Balance, Bake at 325 degree F. for 30 to 40 minutes.

Several years ago my husband and I spent a vacation in Rhode Island on the shore in a beautiful condo. The rental ad described it as a beautiful water front condo with private beach.  They got the beautiful part right, but it should have read, in the water as this two story building was built on piles with water flowing beneath it at high tide. Although Being very apprehensive the manager assured us that the sound  of the water was very soothing and that the water line was several feet away where the waves break. The first three days were wonderful eating breakfast on the deck watching the surfers from a near by college, enjoying the beach and relaxing with that ebb and flow of the water while reading or watching television.  Honestly, I don't think that I ever finished a chapter in my book or saw the end of a television program before dozing off.

Unfortunately, on the fourth day we awoke to a grey rainy day, and decided to do some shopping and go to an early dinner .Leaving the restaurant we noticed that is was raining much harder and that the wind had picked up.  when we arrived at the condo we had a difficult time maneuvering to the door of the condo because of all the airborne sand which now was covering the deck. Thinking that we will just spend a quiet evening relaxing, those thoughts quickly vanished when we saw flashing on  the television a warning of a ferocious storm with abnormal high tide and winds headed our way. 

To make a long story short, it was a very scary night listening to the smashing waves and the roaring water rushing under the condo and, the howling wind rattling of the windows with a little thunder and lighting thrown in.  I did a lot of praying that night and the next day when were able to get out, we headed straight to the bar on the beach.  Although, I really don"t indulge, I ordered their special and (here goes) the fried asparagus.  It was the first time I had eaten asparagus prepared that way and it was delicious.  The asparagus was served with sour cream and sweet pepper relish. It now is my special spring treat! 

1 pound pound asparagus
1 1/2 cups Heart Smart Bisquick Baking Mix
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs, beaten lightly
additional seasonings if desired
canola oil for frying
1
Mix dry ingredients and place in a large plastic freezer bag, Place eggs in a small bowl and beat lightly, combine with ingredients in plastic bag and knead the bag (squeeze) for several minutes until thoroughly combined.If batter seems to thick, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Add prepared stalks to bag and shake gently until stalks are covered with the batter. .
2
Pour oil in skillet until it reaches to 1 inch from bottom of pan. Heat oil-you can adapt the old fashion way of knowing when the oil is hot enough, by dropping a few drops of water in the oil. If it bubbles the oil has reached the correct temperature or you can use the correct thermometer to get a reading of 375.
3
Fry the asparagus in the oil in batches for 1 to 2 minutes, turning once until golden brown. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Serve with sour cream mixed with sweet pepper relish. The relish is readily available in the condiment aisle of your grocery store, or a dip of your choice.