Monday, August 09, 2010

Two Summer Salads

The last two nights we have opted for summer salads, with the main portion made on the grill, to avoid cooking in the present heat wave.   Both recipes originated with Fine Cooking magazine and were only sightly modified to fit our heart healthy goals.

Last night's Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato and Black Bean Salsa was a good start but needed some zing.  The chili powder, cumin, coriander and brown sugar rub seemed to lack something.  The overall recipe had great potential and we think it may be helped by using a jerk seasoning rub and some fresh peppers from the garden.  Cowhorn or poblano peppers would have really raised the ante for that Southwestern flavor.  This recipe is going back for modifications before we post it at

Tonight's dinner was a surprising combination of tomatoes, watermelon, feta cheese and shrimp. The shrimp were marinated in smoked paprika and lemon/lime juice for a great flavor that still let the shrimp taste come through.  The unexpected combination of tomatoes and watermelon was  tastier than we thought it would be.  The only thing I modified in this recipe was cutting way back on the olive oil and salt and using seasoned pepper for more flavor.

The recipes both called for frisee, which I assume is overpriced lettuce, so we used Romaine.  The slightly modified recipe will be posted at

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Summer = Corn on the Cob

Growing up in the Midwest, I was surrounded by fields of corn.  There was nothing better than having Farmer John stroll out into the field and stuff his overall pockets with sweet, fresh corn for us.  We would soak it overnight in salty brine, in the husk, and then throw it on the grill the next day.  When the shucks were burnt, we pulled it back to reveal the best sweet corn-on-the-cob ever, and then dipped it in melted butter and covered it with salt.  It still makes my mouth water.  I once ate 13 cobs in one afternoon!

This is NOT heart healthy!  No question. I'm not saying I wouldn't still love it, but we needed a better alternative.

We still put the unshucked corn on the grill. In winter, we microwave it in the shuck, 4 minutes per ear.
But we have discovered that mixing 1 tablespoon of low fat margarine, 1 tablespoon plain yogurt and 1/4 teas. chili powder yields a wonderful tasty spread for two ears of corn.  Don't even miss the salt.
This is a summer treat we can still enjoy.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Avocado Salmon Stack - Perfect for Summer

It has been so hot!! Who wants to cook and heat up the kitchen? So tonight I prepared a recipe that we have always enjoyed and gave some serious thought to how we can make it even better for us.

The basic recipe is for greens (lettuce, or arugula and radicchio) covered with diced avocado and foil wrapped skinless and boneless pink salmon.  The dressing is a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic  and minced capers. We have never made the recipe exactly as it was found, because I never make the recipes exactly as they were intended.  We leave out the red onions, because we don't like them and the minced shallots just seem extraneous.  But now that we are trying to be more heart healthy, I wonder what other improvements are possible.

The original nutritional information listed calories 530, from fat 420; fat 46g, saturated fat 7g, carbohydrates 23g; fiber 11 g; sugars 5g; protein 16g; cholesterol 25 mg; sodium 1030 mg  That's not very good. 

FAT - the first thing to address would be the olive oil.  I cut the olive oil portion of the dressing in half.
The main source of fat is the avocados but most of the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated -- the "good" kind that actually lowers cholesterol levels.  Only 2 grams from the salmon.

SODIUM - If you should only have 2300 mgs a day, according to the American Heart Assoc., then this recipe would give you 45% of that.  The  packaged salmon has 280 mg, so one thing we could do would be to cook fresh salmon and chill it.  Processed food = sodium.  I had already left the unneeded salt out of the dressing all together.

CARBS - The high fiber content of 11 grams tends to offset the carbs.  We improved this by pairing the meal with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes as well as a toasted slice of whole grain bread.  Really raised the fiber level.

So the next time we make this recipe it will be even better for us, and still a good cool alternative on a hot day.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Red Snapper - It has to be Creole

 I couldn't think of any other way to fix Red Snapper.  Something about it just screams New Orleans.  We happen to have a bounty of ripe tomatoes and spicy peppers from the garden, so this was too easy.

The sauce was just chopped fresh tomatoes, hot peppers - in this case Topepo Rosa -, minced garlic, seasoned pepper, a little Worcester sauce and red wine vinegar.  I added dried basil, but I think the flavor would have been so much deeper with the fresh basil, chopped.  There was a dash of hot sauce for good measure.  After softening the vegetables in a little olive oil, and adding the tomatoes and other ingredients, I brought the sauce to a boil, added the RedSnapper fillets, and let it simmer, covered for about 15 minutes.  Really good.

Today we received a copy of The New American Heart Association Cookbook.   I already can't make enough meals to use up all the wonderful sounding recipes I have been finding and here is this 600+ page recipe book!   We could just start at the beginning and work our way through!

Cooking, and eating, hasn't been this much fun for a long time!

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Monday, July 26, 2010

A Busy Week Cooking

As promised, we spent a busy week trying out new recipes. The first was Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Guacamole.  Again, this meal started with an intriguing recipe emailed to me from Fine Cooking magazine. They also provided a recipe for homemade tortillas, so I tried that too. 

The tortillas were more trouble than I expected and left the kitchen covered with flour - probably the fault of the cook not the recipe.  The instructions said, "It should be more or less circular, though an amoeba shape is fine too."  We had the amoeba shaped variety, though a few got closer to round as I practiced with the rolling pin.   Jose, our HVAC tech, says corn meal tortillas are better and not as messy.  I'll try them next.  (Jose only works on the system when peppers are being harvested from our garden!)

The tortilla recipe will be posted at, but with a few modifications.  Next time I would use a teflon coated skillet and very little olive oil, and as previously suggested, I would try cornmeal.

The Quesadillas themselves were very dry, but the leftovers were improved greatly by reheating so making them ahead of time may be the key.  I have had better Guacamole.  This recipe was nothing but the avocados and fresh lime juice.  It definitely needed more.

The hit of the week was last night's Portabella Mushrooms with Garlicky Swiss Chard.  That is definitely a keeper!   Fine Cooking had suggested Sirloin Steak with Chard, but I wanted to improve the heart healthy aspects of the recipe, so we substituted large portabellas.  I took a hint from our old favorite broiled mushroom recipe and brushed the mushroom caps with an olive oil and lemon mixture, adding some fresh chopped rosemary.  The Swiss Chard in the garden had just gotten big enough to yield some leaves so the timing for this was great.  Larry couldn't get over how good it was.  The little bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of cheese contributed the only fat in the meal.

Garlic is a wonderful addition to so many of these meals.  The next adventure will be planting our own.  We have done it before with good success.  You plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day according to Georgia gardening lore, so now is the time to order. The catalog recommends planting between October and January.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

It pays to read the label

     A trip to the supermarket takes a little longer now.  Reading the labels and comparing the contents is an exercise in amazement and discovery.  I have been fooled before by labels that say "heart healthy", "low sodium" and "fat free".

     Just today I sought out fiber rich canned black beans.  The low sodium variety listed 180 milograms of sodium on the label.  But in the health food aisle I found Eden Organic Black Beans with "no salt added" - only 15 mg per serving.  No cholesterol, 1 gram of fat (not saturated or trans fat), 18 grams of carbs offset by 6 grams of dietary fiber.  7 grams of protein.  All good!  These will be in our low impact black bean quesadillas this week.

"No salt added" seems to be the phrase that is the most reliable predictor of sodium levels, as opposed to "Low Sodium" which is low relative to what?  Between two cans of green beans, the only difference in nutritional content is the milograms of sodium - 400 mg for one and 10mg for the "no salt added" variety.

I know what you are thinking... "but the no salt ones don't taste good."    My answer is that the "no salt added" ones taste different and the flavor of the beans can be enhanced by adding things like seasoned pepper or balsamic vinegar, or both!  Better yet, buy or grow fresh beans that taste good plain.

Penzey's Spices  offers a variety of seasonings that we have found to be very flavorful and more than adequate in replacing salt.  Adobo seasoning is one of our favorites for seasoning chicken, fish or pork. Penzey's recommends it for guacamole as well.  No sodium.  It's companion for Mexican cooking is Epazote which has a good relationship with all kinds of beans.  No sodium. I don't like to be without either of them.

This is a seasoning chart I have carried with me for 40 years. I have no idea what the source was but it served me well as I learned to cook.

This herb used forAppetizers & SoupsMeat & PoultryFish & ShellfishVegetablesSaladsEggs, Cheese, Sauces
ALLSPICEVegetable, Pea, Mock Turtle, TomatoSpaghetti Sauce, Spiced Beef, Tongue, Meat LoafClam Chowder, Court Bouillon for Cooking FishRed Cabbage, Beets, Pumpkin, Sweet PotatoesOrange and Grapefruit Salads
BASILTomato and Vegetable SoupsLiver, Lamb, Any stew, Beef StewBluefish, Halibut, MackerelCabbage, Egg Plant, Squash, TurnipsMixed Greens, Seafood, Tomato AspicAny Cheese, Rice or Macaroni Dish, Spanish Omelet
CLOVESTomato, Pea, Potato, BeanHam, Pork, Veal Loaf, Duck, Beef StewBeets, Beans, Baked Onions, Winter SquashFruit Salads
Cream, Pea, Asparagus, Tomato, Cheese Spreads, Avocado DipsChicken, Lamb, BeefFish stews or ShellfishCarrots, Cabbage, Rice, Beans, Mixed Vegetables, TomatoesFrench Dressing or MayonnaiseScrambled or Deviled Eggs
MARJORAMSpinach Soup, Oyster Stew, Vegetable JuicePot Roasts, Any Stew, Gravies & StuffingsAll Broiled Fish, Creamed Crab or ScallopsCarrots, Onions, Peas, SpinachMixed Greens, Chicken, SeafoodAny Egg or Cheese Dish, Creamed Sauce for Vegetables
OREGANOSoups, Minestrone, Tomato, Vegetable, AvolemenoFried Chicken, Kidney Stew, Pork VealMelted Butter served with Shellfish, Fish stuffingMushrooms, Onions, TomatoesMixed Greens, Potato, SeafoodOmelets, Italian Sauce
PAPRIKACream Soups, Chicken Broth, Potato Soup, CanapesVeal,Lamb,Pork,BeefAny Fish or ShellfishCabbage, Cauliflower, Potatoes, SquashFruit Salads, DressingsBaked, Poached, Omelets
PARSLEYGarnish in Canapes & SoupsStews, Steak Sauce, Stuffing, GarnishParsley Butter, Fish StuffingAll Vegetables and in Lemon Butter for Potatoes and CarrotsIn Salads or add to dressingSeasoning & Garnish - all dishes
SAFFRONChicken Soup, Soup StockChicken, Lamb, VealHalibut, SoleOnionsDeviled Eggs, SeafoodSpanish Rice, Saffron Butter Sauce
SAGEFish Chowder, Cottage Cheese SpreadPoultry Stuffing, Sausage, StewsBaked Fish, StuffingBeans, Onions, TomatoesSpanish Omelet
TARRAGONSoups, Tomato, Vegetable, Cheese SpreadsChicken, Game, Turkey, Sweetbreads, VealAny Fish or ShellfishAsparagus, Celery, Green Beasn, Peas, TomatoesAny Salad Dressing, Chicken, Sliced TomatoesAny Egg or Cheese Dish, Sauces, Bernaise, Tartar

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Squash - Use it up

In our ongoing quest for healthy food, we slightly modified a recipe from Fine Cooking magazine.  The vegetable garden is producing more than we can eat, primarily cucumbers right now, but also yellow squash.

I had received a recipe in my email for Grilled Sausage with Summer Squash, Fresh Herbs & Olives.  When I checked the sausage we had in the freezer I found that even the chicken/turkey sausages, that we had been eating because we thought they were good for us, have a bunch of sodium and fat.  The next option was to substitute skinless chicken breasts.  I rubbed a minimal amount of olive oil on the chicken pieces and sprinkled a tiny bit of Lawry's Seasoned Salt on them, leaving them whole for the grill.    

Once the chicken was on I chunked a big yellow squash into 1 inch pieces and tossed it in a bowl with a little olive oil and Lawry's Seasoned Pepper, a salt-free mix of black and red peppers.  The garden had given us a few yellow bush beans so I threw them in with the squash.  This went into a grill basket and joined the chicken on the grill.

While they cooked, I chopped fresh basil and parsley from the garden with some mint left over from the Middle Eastern Lentil Loaf.  Threw this in a big bowl with a tablespoon of capers.  The recipe called for halved kalamata olives but having accidentally bought the ones canned with red jalapenas, I put them in a separate dish for Larry to add at will.

When the chicken was done, I cut it into eating size pieces and added it to the bowl with the roasted vegetables, tossing everything together.   Larry is not a fan of lemons but I squeezed fresh lemon juice on my serving.  No extra salt was needed.  It wasn't missed.

We both loved it.  Every bite offered a different combination of fresh flavors.  We post all our favorites online, so this will be added to our website .  As we discover and enjoy new heart healthy recipes we will post them with a small heart symbol

Stay tuned since we have an ambitious agenda for dinners this week.  Lobster Rolls, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with home made tortillas and guacamole, Portabella Mushrooms with Garlic Swiss Chard and Summer Bouillabaisse with Smoky Rouille - all modified from recipes sent to me by Fine Cooking magazine.  No, I am not on commission. They just send really fine recipes to me every day!

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